Briefly, the Importance of the Beatles
The importance of the Beatles in the history of popular music cannot be overstated. Wildly eclectic, fiercely idiosyncratic, and dazzlingly creative, they single-handedly transformed Rock 'n Roll from a teenage music rebellion into the world-spanning, all-embracing, almost genre-less omnigenre it is today, in the process utterly obliterating the once large divide between popular music and high art.
Because of their incredible stylistic omnivorousness, there is almost no song today that does not owe something significant to their work. Among others they invented the song with lyrics that make no sense ("I Am the Walrus"), the cultural crossover sound ("Tomorrow Never Knows"), the music video ("Strawberry Fields Forever"), the concept album ("Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"), the first true heavy metal song ("Helter Skelter"), and utter weirdness ("Yellow Submarine"). They also showed off their mastery of traditional forms like classic rock n' roll ("Twist 'n Shout"), the consummate pop song ("I Want to Hold Your Hand"), the soft ballad ("Yesterday"), and even one of the better straight-up blues you'll ever hear ("For You Blue").
Perhaps most amazing of all, especially for people like me who weren't alive to be part of it, the world was with them all the way during this incredible ten-year journey of discovery. No matter what the Beatles came up with next, the world embraced it, and it was good stuff every time. And we are not just talking about the undulating masses of female fans who illustrated the incalculable capacity to scream their heads off wherever the "fab four" went, but people from all ages and social strata - from first graders to first ladies, from famous composers to garage bands, a generation of listeners looked to the Beatles to tell them where music would go next, and they answered the call.
The Bealtes sold records when they were mop-topped crooners. They sold records when they were bearded pseudo-indian mystics. They sold records despite their experiments with drugs and their refusal to tour after 1965 (when they became the first ever studio band). They even sold records after John said they were more popular than Jesus. As much as people loved the men themselves - rebellious leader John, thoughtful perfectionist Paul, soft-spoken and spiritual George Harrison, and lovable goofball Ringo - in the end the music was what really mattered. It was the last great consensus in popular music.