Without The Beatles, the entire world would probably have been very different, for they not only took popular music to new and undreamed of places but spearheaded a social and cultural revolution.
Musically, they had everything. As songwriters, Lennon and McCartney combined craft and melodic invention. As singers, they were among the most expressive in rock. George Harrison also swiftly blossomed into an outstanding songwriter, while Ringo Starr provided the immaculate backbeat and, in George Martin, they had a producer who knew how to realise their vision without compromising their ideas.
Above all, they never stopped growing throughout their career. From their debut album, 1963's Please Please Me, to Abbey Road six years later, every record represented a considerable artistic progression.
Their early releases were a brilliant synthesis of all their influences - American rock'n'roll, Brill Building songwriting, early Motown, Phil Spector, R&B, Everly Brothers harmonies and just about everything else they had heard growing up in Liverpool. But they put them together in a way that was bold, innovative and new. Their singles have simply never been bettered, brilliantly combining accessibility and tunefulness with an invention and imagination that was entirely new to pop. From 1965 on, their work grew ever more complex as they pioneered the use of feedback, tape loops, sitars and much else besides. Most things you hear in modern rock music were in some way done by The Beatles first.
When the end came in 1970, it was messy, sad - and inevitable.
Ultimately, one group could not contain such a wealth of extraordinarily talent. But although individual members went on to make such fine solo records as All Things Must Pass, Imagine and Band On The Run, there was a magic about their work together that has never been matched, let alone bettered.
A quantum leap, both in the intricate arrangements and in lyrics which began to show the increasing influence of Dylan. From 'Norwegian Wood' to 'Michelle', Rubber Soul was also the album that found Lennon and McCartney diverging dramatically - yet beneficially - as songwriters.
An almost perfect record that has repeatedly topped Best Album Of All Time polls. McCartney has become the consummate pop craftsman ("Here, There & Everywhere", "Eleanor Rigby") while Lennon is restlessly pushing at the boundaries ("Tomorrow Never Knows", "Rain").
Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band
For long considered their greatest achievement, although in recent times its reputation has been eclipsed by Revolver. More than any other Beatles record, Sgt Pepper is wholly redolent of its era. Yet it remains a psychedelic masterpiece, balancing whimsical innocence with phantasmagorical drug-induced visions.
The Beatles (aka The white Album)
Don't listen to those who say it would've made a better single album. By 1968, it took four sides to do justice to the breadth of The Beatles' songwriting, with George ("While My Guitar Gentle Weeps") for the first time matching the best of John ("Dear Prudence"/"Glass Onion") and Paul ("Blackbird"/"I Will").
Assuming you've got all the singles elsewhere, the first of the three double-CD 'Anthology' sets offers a fascinating portrait of the group's early years via out-takes, demos, alternate versions and live performances. Volumes 2 & 3 continue the story chronologically and are equally valuable.