Q: I heard a song recently titled “Adventure Rocketship,” and the singer sounds exactly like John Lennon. Who is the singer?
A: The singer is none other than Robyn Hitchcock, the eccentric English singer/songwriter whose specializes in melodic pop songs with bizarre lyrics. It is clear from listening to his music that his early influences were the Beatles and Bob Dylan.
In 1977, he formed his first band, the Soft Boys, with Morris Windsor (drums), Andy Metcalfe (bass), and Alan Davies (guitar).
By 1980 and the release of their second album, “Underwater Moonlight,” both Davies and Metcalfe had been replaced with Kimberley Rew and Matthew Seligman, respectively.
Bands like R.E.M. and the Replacements have cited this album as being their inspiration. In 1981, the band dissolved and Hitchcock began a solo career. In 1985, he teamed up again with Metcalfe and Windsor and started touring as Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians.
They disbanded in 1993, and he has largely been a solo act since, although in 2006 he formed the Venus 3, which featured R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey (of Fresh Young Fellows), and Bill Rieflin (of Ministry).
“Adventure Rocketship” was the first song on their 2006 album, “Olé! Tarantula.” Between 2015-2017, he recorded and toured with Emma Swift, with whom he is now in a relationship, and last September he and Andy Partridge of XTC recorded and released a four-song EP called “Planet England.”
Q: What was the name of the band that sang the theme song for the TV series, “Friends,” and are they still recording?
A: The title song is, of course, “I’ll Be There for You.” It was written specifically for the show and is credited to the show’s co-producers, David Crane and Marta Kaufman, as well as Kaufman’s husband, composer Michael Skloff and lyricist Allee Willis, and Phil Solem and Danny Wilde.
At the time, Solem and Wilde performed with bassist Graham Edwards and drummer Pat Mastelotto as The Rembrandts, an alternative rock band from Southern California that had scored a couple of Top 20 hits.
The show’s producers reportedly offered the song first to such artists as Natalie Merchant, Michael Stipe and They Might Be Giants, each of whom turned it down. But Kevin Bright, one of the show’s other producers, was a Rembrandts fan and asked Solem and Wilde to record the theme.
At first the pair was skeptical, afraid they would be accused of selling out. However, they liked the show’s premise and its up-tempo, Beatlesque theme song and, thinking that no one would notice since they would be uncredited on the show, they agreed to record it.
As we all now know, however, the show was a runaway success, and pressure mounted on The Rembrandts from their record company to record a proper full-length, radio-friendly version of the song. The Rembrandts’ extended version shot to the top of the singles charts and stayed there for 11 weeks.
Unfortunately, as happens so often in similar situations, the song’s commercial success overshadowed what The Rembrandts were trying to achieve as a band in its own right.
The band split in 1997, and its members went their separate ways. In 2000, Wilde and Solem reunited as The Rembrandts and continue to write, record and perform to this day.
What’s the name of that song? Where are they now? What does that lyric mean? Send your questions about songs, albums, and the musicians who make them to MusicOnTheRecord@gmail.com. Bradford Brady and John Maron are freelance music writers based in Raleigh, N.C.
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