I first heard of Greg Alexander (a.k.a. Professor Moptop) when, following a delivery of "The Influence of American Rock 'n' Roll on The Beatles" at the Aspen Drive Library in Vernon Hills, IL, a man in the audience mentioned him. He entered my radar again a few days ago when I found a link to this video on Facebook:
A sucker for all things Beatles, I immediately subscribed to his YouTube channel and again searched "Professor Moptop" on Google. This time I found his website, www.professormoptop.com, and discovered his kickstarter campaign "Professor Moptop has written a textbook Beatle book!!!!".
I also sent him an email through his website and proposed an interview to help promote his work and kickstarter fund. That interview can be found below:
The Beatles are perhaps the most famous and popular rock band ever. Why?
A very simple answer to an extremely complex question that there is an unmistakable amount of joy and positivity surrounding the band, from the very beginning, through the break up and beyond, not just in their music but in their films, interviews, photography, and all things surrounding them.
And why have you chosen to study The Beatles so extensively, as opposed to other artists?
As soon as I discovered music I always wanted to know more about whoever the artist was and where the music came from, studying record labels and liner notes.
I discovered the Monkees after seeing their reruns on tv at a really early age and would listen to the oldies records that my parents had around.
Always knowing about the Beatles I knew I enjoyed them, only getting interested, and then quickly fascinated by them around the age of 17, snapping up all of their cds quickly and learning “the basics” by reading up on their history, I suppose I never stopped.
John Lennon and Paul McCartney were one of the greatest songwriting tandems ever. What made them so special? To what extent do you explore that relationship in the book?
Another simple answer to a complex question is that they were a wonderful combination, and they each brought out the best in one another. As young and above average thinking men the two songwriters both lost their mothers, which bonded the two of them beyond just a couple of kids who liked the same music. As they each developed as songwriters they pushed one another to come up with better ideas in what wasn’t a competition but a focus on the greater reward. The book covers many of the specifics as to how the two would write in the early days, and then after the fame struck and more pressure was upon them.
You use the terms "Professor MopTop" and "Beatle University" to describe yourself and your work. What exactly do those terms mean to you, and what made you chose them?
Beginning in 1997 I would produce an all-day Beatle show on WXRT called “Rampant Beatle-Mania Sunday” hosted by Terri Hemmert. She and I began talking about a way to present a segment that I could do and the concept of teaching “college level facts about the Beatles “ was presented and the name “Moptop” came up (I’ve been a long haired man most of my life) and the Professor and it just stuck.
After doing a few shorter segments for a few years, expanding them when Breakfast With The Beatles became a weekly show I have covered such topics as “great days in Beatle history” “songs they gave away” “BBC tracks” “original versions of songs they covered” and a wide range of very focused lessons on the band, always trying to find a new way to present a subject matter that has been thoroughly examined. Several years back I began doing song by song by song, album by album by album, week by week and am currently almost finished with the white album.
You're planning to publish a book about the early, formative years of The Beatles (1957-1964). Why did you decide to focus on this period?
There is a lack of books that are written for fans of the Beatles that are beginners, which can also shed some light on the subject for aficionados, that can also be used a reference book for anyone who may re-listen and revisit Beatle, and Beatle related music.
Ultimately I wanna get through an thorough examination of every song the Beatles recorded, and starting at the very beginning, when John and Paul met, what I call the dawn of time seemed to be a logical beginning. I also feel that too many books attempt to cram too much information into too few pages, and the end of ’64 was a perfect jumping off point.
Since your book focuses on the band's early years, does that mean you're fondest of their early albums? Which would be your favorite and why?
As a listening fan, '65 and '66 are my favorite years, but from a historical standpoint, the early years are fascinating, and I eventually wanna get to discuss and analyze every song of all, and beginning from the beginning was an obvious choice for me. I also think the early years are a bit under discussed and haven't been properly reported on.
There are a great many Beatles books already available. Why do you feel another book is needed? How will your book differ from other authors’ books?
Many of the Beatle books written about them are simply lists of facts about the band, without any real analysis or reasoning for these lists. I have researched far and wide to not only discuss the music that the Beatles created and performed, but what else was going on around them, and how it helped in shaping their sound.
American Rock and roll, skiffle, the British invasion, songs that mention the Beatles, the bands early influences as well as George Martin productions prior to the Beatles are all examined thoroughly in the book.
There are also quite a few “alternative facts” or speculations that are reported as truth. I think it’s important to specify what is a theory, was is a possibility, and what is a documented fact.
Have you written any other books? About The Beatles, or on other topics?
I have never written a full book but had written several lengthy essays about some of my favorite bands and music related subjects, most notably The Blues Brothers, The Muppets, The Wizard of Oz, Shel Silversteen and Joe Meek. One day I would like to publish each of these in some fashion.
Many authors cite John F. Kennedy's assassination as a contributing factor to The Beatles' meteoric rise in popularity a few months later. And just as many seem to dismiss any such connection as mere coincidence. Where do you fall in the JFK/Beatles debate?
While it wasn’t the only factor in the large series of events that led to the international “mania” of Beatle stardom, it certainly was an important one. I tend to feel that Americans would have come around and taken an interest in the craze of British bands eventually, the fact that the country needed something positive to rally behind may have hurried the process along.
After years of collecting facts and sharing them I have compiled my thoughts and wrote them all down. I discussed books and publishing with several authors and decided that self-publishing is the way to go, although a rather spendy process. I have set up a kickstarer campaign titled “Professor Moptop has written a textbook” that lasts until February 13th, hopefully I will hit my goal in time.
To promote the crowd sourcing fundraiser I have been doing some radio interviews and have created a “Beatle University” youtube channel where I have been posting the most recent lessons that I have done, the Professor Moptop soundcloud also has many of them.
Professormoptop.com is up and running and has direct links to the Professor Moptop has written a textbook Kickstarter campaign, where you can see some of the rewards that can be earned for donating, including signed copies of the book, posters, a Professor Moptop 45 1/3 record and some Beatle University stickers!
The Kickstarter campaign is for $4,489. How will that money be spent?
Technically the amount of the goal is $4,489.09 because I wanted it to end with a 909, but they round off the loose change. The path to getting a holdable, readable book involves setting up a company and then hiring the best people for editing, formatting, compiling the bibliography and indexing the book, paying the artists and then getting the rewards into the hands of the donors. With this I should be at about even when the book is finished, which will hopefully allow me to “take my show on the road” more often and give presentations at assorted libraries, taverns or other locations.
The Professor's Kickstarter project runs through February 13. I'll be contributing shortly, and I eagerly await reading the book!
As Prof Moptop resides in the Chicago area, I have hopes to co-present with him this coming August, when I make my next Chicago tour. Since his emphasis is on the early years, it might work well to have him open with the band's formation and early recordings, then I could discuss their later work.
But that's several months down the road. More immediate, tomorrow afternoon I return to my signature presentation:
Saturday, 28 January 2017, 2:00-3:00 p.m.
Denham Springs: Walker Branch, 8101 US Highway 190, Denham Springs, LA
The Beatles: Band of the Sixties
Explore the music of The Beatles in this 60-minute multimedia presentation (part history and part musical analysis) spanning the full 1960's: beginning with the band's seminal visits to Hamburg, continuing through Beatlemania, and concluding with Abbey Road. The program will be supplemented with audio clips of music and excerpts from interviews with the band members.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.