San Antonio has forever been rich in music and culture, and our big little town has been quite the muse for many a songwriter. In this series of San Antonio songs, we’ll discuss popular Alamo City ditties and musicians that have a San Antonio connection—for better or worse. In this post, we’re looking at The Monkees “What am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round.”
As a pre-teen who grew up in the 80s, I wasted hours of my days and nights droning in front of MTV. My musical scope at that time was limited to four bands: Rush, REM, Bruce Springsteen and Men At Work. In 1986, while vegging out and lego-ing in front of the TV, I was snapped out of my daze by a quick tom roll followed by this catchy lyrical intro, sung by a group of beatnik hippie-looking dudes from the 60s:
“Here we come
Walkin’ down the street
We get the funniest looks from
Everyone we meet”
My 10 year-old self asked, “Why is this old-timey show infiltrating on my airwaves?” Yet I continue to watch, continued to absorb. Eventually I giggled, then chortled. And then I was hooked. I was bearing witness the title sequence of The Monkees.
I’m not sure how much of this is widely known, but the Monkees have a decent little connection with the Alamo City. Lead-Monkee Michael Nesmith was a lifelong Texas resident. As a young, ambitious 18-year old, Nesmith enlisted in the USAF and was deployed to Lackland AFB for his basic training, later attending San Antonio College following his honorable discharge from the service. And it was here where Nesmith’s music interest sparked into a roaring inferno.
Nesmith set out for the glamor and glitz of the prospering Los Angeles music scene in 1963, and shortly thereafter he was cast into the Monkees TV series. After joining the group officially in 1965, Nesmith and The Monkees caught fire in the late 1960’s, gaining instant TV stardom. And with the help of a crack songwriting team, the quartet cranked out megahits such as “Last Train To Clarksville,” “Daydream Believer” and a slew of other tunes that you’ve likely, and involuntarily, tapped your foot to.
While it may not have been solid gold, The Monkees’ “What Am I Doing Hangin’ Round?” throws a not-so-subtle nod to the town that initially gave Nesmith his big break. It’s upbeat and a little shuffle-y, with some ever-so-slight Spanish overtones tucked way down in the melody.
Nesmith laments about being torn between his sancha down south and the subsequent longing to get back to good ol’ San Antone, which I’m sure we can all totally understand. I mean, who can blame the guy for his desperate, uncontrollable hankering for puffy tacos from Ray’s Drive Inn? Right?
Alternatively, maybe Nesmith needed to hustle back to town to meet his well-to-do mama Bette Nesmith for brunch to discuss his cut of the Liquid Paper fortune. Whatever the rationale for bailing on his babe, we’re glad that Mr. Nesmith chose San Antonio for his retreat. You’ll always belong to us, Michael Nesmith. Always.