Paul Jenkins has directed the Mount St. Joseph University (MSJ) library for years. Also, during that time he has become an emerging expert on the music of the Beatles. Paul recently took time to talk about his interest in the Beatles and his published research on the group.
Do you remember when you first heard the Beatles’ music?
I was born in 1961. My brothers (born in 1956 and 1958) were big fans of the group, so I can’t remember a time when Beatles LPs weren’t being played on my parents’ turntable. The first album I ever owned was Rubber Soul (the American version). It came out in December, 1965. I also clearly remember the day my father brought home Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967. There was such a buzz surrounding the release of that album.
What are your favorite Beatles songs?
Oh, boy, that’s a tough one. I get asked that all the time, but I still don’t know the best way to respond. Off the top of my head I’d say: “I Should Have Known Better,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Nowhere Man,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” “For No One,” “Good Day Sunshine,” “If I Fell,” “I’ll Follow the Sun,” “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” “Fool on the Hill,” “Old Brown Shoe,” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Really I love them all, of course, but these are my top dozen or so.
What got you interested to start writing about and doing research on the Beatles?
Since I loved the music so much, I wanted to learn more about the group members and how the songs were composed. I started collecting Beatles books, and that led me to consider which I considered most important. This led me to write an 8,000-word bibliographic essay titled “The Beatles: Will You Read My Book” that was just published in the May 2016 edition of Choice (a review journal for academic librarians). In this essay I discuss the relative merits of what I consider to be the best one hundred books written about the group. There have been more than 2,400 books written about the Beatles! In a sense, rock journalism began with the first studies written about the Fab Four. I also teach a course on the Beatles at Mount St. Joseph University so I’m constantly looking for new literature about the group I can use with my students.
Why do you think the Beatles have been so popular for so many decades?
Their melodies, their harmonies, their charm, their desire to experiment. All four elements are stunning and distinctive. To be honest, I guess nostalgia on the part of Baby Boomers also has something to do with it. Studies have shown, however, that succeeding generations also love these sounds from the 1960s.
Do you have any upcoming research projects or presentations about the Beatles?
I’m co-editing a book with my brother (who also teaches a course on the group) called Teaching the Beatles. We’ve identified a dozen scholars across the country who teach courses on the group. They’ll contribute chapters that discuss the various approaches they take to introduce the group to undergraduates. I’m also working on a paper that is a close reading of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” I have given a number of talks titled “The Beatles: Why They Mattered and Still Matter” in the community in the last few months.
Where can people access your research on the Beatles?
They can Google “The Beatles: Will You Read My Book” to find the essay I mention above. That’s the only piece I’ve published on the Beatles. The rest are still in the works. Anyone interested in my other Beatles projects, handouts, lists, and presentations can email me, though, at [email protected]. I’ve written two books, liner notes, and articles about librarianship, folk music, bluegrass music, etc. but so far only this one essay on the Beatles.
Tell us about some of the changes happening to the MSJ Library.
We’re adding a Starbucks that will open in late August 2016. Also, a mummy exhibit from the Natural History Museum will be housed in the library for two years while renovation to the museum takes place. That will also be installed in August 2016. Plans for a complete renovation of the library have been created, but the institution now needs to raise funds to realize our dreams.