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The Beatles

The shadow cast by The Beatles over even their most popular contemporaries is so immense that sometimes it’s hard to tell what they innovated in the world of pop music and what they simply popularized. It is certain, however, that they were the vanguard of the British Invasion, landing the first volley with Ed Sullivan’s portentous introduction “Ladies and gentlemen: The Beatles!” in early 1964. Popular music has never been the same. They were among the first to take rock ‘n’ roll and merge it with popular standards, folk (with a little help from Bob Dylan), blues, and other genres. Although they are often derided for their weaknesses as a true-blue, hard-living, parent-frightening, cooler-than-all band, one need only compare the Fab Four’s version of “I Wanna Be Your Man” to that of the Rolling Stones to know their early days in Hamburg taught The Beatles the rules of blistering rock ‘n’ Roll. The intense supernova of Beatlemania couldn’t last forever, but at least the band’s retreat from the stage was matched by a wealth of awesome material--everything from “Penny Lane”/”Strawberry Fields Forever” to Abbey Road’s “The End” (a fitting title for what would be the band’s death-knell) was arguably the most advanced popular music of its era. The Beatles were the proverbial lightning in a bottle: they had the resources, the talent, the producer (“fifth Beatle” George Martin), and the desire to push the boundaries of their music, resulting in an amazing combination that has maintained a grip on the public’s ear and imagination.