Prof. Mop­top pub­lishes Bea­tles book

Ra­dio per­son­al­ity, an Al­sip na­tive, pub­lishes text­book backed by Kick­starter cam­paign

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Donna Vick­roy

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 PHOTO

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.

KEYSTONE/GETTY

The Bea­tles’ ar­chive photo

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