There’s a bit of disagreement among the involved parties around the specifics, but one thing everyone seems to agree on is that the Rembrandts — who, up until that point, had released two little-heard albums forgettably titled The Rembrandts and Untitled — were not the first choice to provide the theme song for Friends. Initially, the series’ creators Marta Kauffman and David Crane had their hearts set on R.E.M., a band which had seen considerably more success. Their 1991 release Out of Time had topped the charts all over the world, sold a kajillion copies, won three Grammy Awards, and produced three hit singles: “Losing My Religion,” “Radio Song” (which improbably featured rap legend KRS-One), and the tune that Kauffman and Chase originally wanted for their show’s theme, “Shiny Happy People.”
In a 2019 conversation with NME, R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe and bassist Mike Mills recalled that an inquiry had been made about using their song for Friends‘ theme. “I think they went to [us] first for the theme song, and [we] said no,” Stipe said. Mills then chimed in to say, “Apparently they were thinking about using ‘Shiny Happy People’ as the theme song, which I just recently heard about, but apparently that’s the case.” In fact, an unaired pilot for the show — at the time titled Friends Like Us — did in fact use that very tune for its opening sequence, which can be seen on YouTube. It’s probably a good thing that R.E.M. declined to play ball, though, because “Shiny Happy People” is absolutely one of the most annoying hit songs ever recorded, as even Stipe would now agree — and it likely would have had a fair number of viewers tuning out after ten seconds, never mind ten seasons.