Fifty years ago, the Beatles established the template for what a rock band should be, and not just because, as the old joke had it, their roster of “cute one, smart one, soulful one, and drummer” made them the perfect celebrity quartet. In their relatively short career together they changed and grew, incorporating new influences. They — and, more directly, John Lennon as a solo artist — played a role in articulating the hopes and anger of the ’60s and early ’70s. Their journey from “Love Me Do” to “The Long and Winding Road” captured the quickly maturing (and darkening) viewpoint of those who, like Paul McCartney, turned 22 in 1964 and 28 in 1970.
Yet the Beatles’ greatest achievement may be that, a few rockabilly tunes and protest songs aside, they transcended their times. Their extensive discography sounds just as fresh today as ever. Millions of American boomers now entering retirement may blushingly remember their teenage reactions to the Beatles’ Feb. 9, 1964, appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” But listening to the Beatles today is a refreshingly nostalgia-free experience.