Prof. Moptop publishes Beatles book
Radio personality, an Alsip native, publishes textbook backed by Kickstarter campaign
Attention class: Professor Moptop says if youwant to know more about the Beatles, perhaps you should start where his course does, at the beginning.
Gregory Alexander, aka Beatles expert ProfessorMoptop on Chicago’sWXRT-FM93.1, has written the first textbook in what he hopes will be a compilation on Beatles history.
Now available at amazon.com, “Professor Moptop’s Textbook Beatles, Volume I: Fromthe Birth of the Band to December 31, 1962” was launched with the help of a Kickstarter campaign that raised more then $6,300.
The 218-page collection of narrative, facts and photos begins in late 1956-early 1957, when someone gifted a guitar to John Lennon.
“The book covers fromthe day John and Paul first met until the end of 1962, which is a really good period for them,” said Alexander, who has been featured with host Terri Hemmert on the station’s “Breakfast with the Beatles” Sunday morning showsince the early 2000s.
He chose textbook format, he said, partially because of his “Beatles University” teacher character but also “because I don’t think the Beatles get treated like the subject they should.
“Alot of bands get a lot of hype, but it’s hard to put in words just how important the Beatles were to everything that came after them,” he said.
“By figuring out the stuff that came before them and inspired them, and by showing who they inspired in turn, as well as their contemporaries and people who came after them, this really gives a broad spectrum of all of the things they’ve done fromthe ’40s to present day,” he said.
The Beatles were a special phenomenon that has been unparalleled, Alexander said. “And it doesn’t look like there’s ever going to be anything that’s quite the same.
“It’s very unique in pop culture to have something so longstanding even after so many generations,” he said.
“‘The Wizard of Oz’ ‘and the Beatles are in the same category.”
Alexander, an Alsip native and graduate of Stony Creek Elementary and Shepard High School, became fascinated with the Fab Four when hewas around 17.
Though he also is a fan of other bands and, mostly, Bob Dylan, whose unique style he believes the Beatles tried to emulate, Alexander said the more he dug into Beatles lore, the more he wanted to know. And there is a considerable amount to know.
“I started listening and reading and realizing there was more to the Beatles thanmost of the other bands, even big bands like the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin or Kiss,” he said. “It just seemed like the Beatles were a level above that.”
When Alexander was a student at Columbia College, a producer for WXRT invited him to intern at the station in 1997.
“While I was there I started working on the Beatlemania Sunday Show which is how Terri Hemmert and I started working together,” he said. That led to an annual Beatles Day and the creation of his teacher character, ProfessorMoptop.
“I had long hair,” he said. “I didn’t put much thought into it.”
But he has channeled much time and energy into researching the Beatles.
“It’s overwhelming how much he knows,” said Dan Byrne, retired District 218 teacher and administrator. Alexander took his journalism and newspaper pro-
duction classes at Shepard.
“He did a recent presentation on the White album at the Evergreen Park Public Library recently. It was 50 fun facts about it. It was excellent. Maybe I knew two of these things, maybe,” Byrne said.
Byrne recalled how Alexander loved music when hewas in high school.
“He has an incredible eclectic taste,” he said. “And he’s incredibly driven.”
During a post-graduation visit to Shepard, Alexander got to chatting with Byrne about a new interest in the Beatles.
“It was he who first said, ‘You should write this down,’ ” Alexander said.
So Alexander did, and nowhas dedicated the book to Byrne.
“It makes me proud, and happy for him. He’s doing what he loves and you can tell that,” Byrne said. “That’s what I encouraged him to do — what I would encourage any student to do — go after the thing you love and do it.”
Alexander said he considers his followers “students” in the sense that they are interested in learning more about the band.
“I’m always excited to learn something new, even if it is from 50 years ago,” he said.
In addition to making interestingandcreativemusic, Alexander said, “The Beatles had really good timing.”
They had planned to come to America in 1964 anyway, he said. Their arrival just happened to come as the nationwas mourning the death of (John F.) Kennedy.
“It was sort of fortuitous for the Beatles because America really needed something to helpthempull together and feel good again. And it just so happened that the Beatleswere there at the right time,” he said.
“But also their style of music, the technology that came around, the freedom that musicians started getting — all that happened when they were popular and a lot of that because of them,” he said.
In addition, he said, “American music had gotten really really stale by this point.”
Record labels had started branding and most of those brands were short-haired, good looking white singers such as Fabian and Frankie Valli.
“Buddy Holly had died, Chuck Berry was in jail. Eddie Cochran died. Elvis went to the Army. Little Richard joined a ministry. Jerry Lee Lewis had his scandals,” he said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of rock ’n’ roll.
“All of the Founding Fathers of rock had kind of fallen on hard times. So in that absence, therewas a lot of pop-y, not really important music,” he said. “When the Beatles came, that really changed the way Americans played music. That started the British invasion.”
Will the mania continue? “It seems like that’s the path they’re on. Like a Beethoven or Tchaikovsky. Many, many years after they died people were still en- thralled by their music,” he said. “I think it will be easier for the Beatles to stay in the forefront thanks to downloading and technology. That being said, eventually the pool’s going to be so big they’re gonna have a smaller and smaller piece of it. But they’re never really gonna disappear.”
Next up, Alexander said, he has several more textbooks in the wings. He hopes to have the next installment out by the end of 2019.
“Then I’ll move onto the ‘Rubber Soul’and‘Revolver’ era, then Sgt. Pepper and ‘Let it Be’and‘AbbeyRoad,’” hesaid. “Itmight take a little while.”
He’s led classes at local libraries, but he’d really like to teach an extended, semester-long course at a college or university.
“Especially for people who are really interested in it,” he said. “You can learn a lot but when you discuss it with others, you can learn even more.”
Gregory Alexander, left, aka Professor Moptop onWXRT’s “Breakfast with the Beatles” show, has published the first of what he hopes will be a series of textbooks on the band. He’s standing with Dan Byrne, a retired District 218 teacher who inspired him to write a book.
The Beatles’ archive photo