Most bands can get by with one good songwriter. As long as they’ve got a bit of luck on their side and a decent image, they only need one talented writer to develop a career. The Beatles had one very good songwriter and two outstanding ones. Even if George had been the only writer they would have managed to be as well remembered as a lot of their contemporaries. George + Paul would have made them the most revered band of the sixties. George + Paul +John put them in a stratosphere far above and beyond anyone else before or since. There are lots of more “obscure” Beatles songs which are tucked away on albums or b-sides that other bands would have considered their standout single.
Their production was always pretty much perfect and most importantly it always served the songs. Some bands have production tries to show off their abilities or some new innovation they’ve come up with in the studio. The Beatles innovated, but the song was always the most important thing. Their production sounds timeless because they weren’t interested in saying “Look at me!” – they were more interested in selling the song.
Their lyrics were simple and timeless. There are moments that are dated (“Run for your life”) but generally their lyrics are positive and upbeat. They might not have had Dylan’s way with words but it’s still possible to connect with what they’re saying fifty years after they said it.
They really did cross genres and radio formats. There really isn’t any other artist who can so comfortably and easily fit into so many radio playlists. They did pop (much of the early Beatlemania stuff), Rock (much of the rest of the early Beatlemania stuff), easy listening (Yesterday, When I’m 64 etc), world music (Within You, Without You, The Inner Light ), experimental music (Revolution 9, Tomorrow Never Knows), psychedelia (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds), Hard rock/proto metal (Revolution 1, Helter Skelter), kids’ music (Octopus’s Garden, Yellow Submarine) Ska (Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da), Country (Act Naturally), Rockabilly (Honey Don’t), Show Tunes (Till there was you) and dabbled in other genres. It’s possible to hate 90% of the Beatles catalogue but still adore 10 of their songs. The staggering breadth of cover versions attests to just how varied their appeal is.
They were never not cool. The Beatles didn’t tarnish their image by hanging around for 10 years after they stopped being good. They didn’t start their career with five years of substandard work before they found their groove. They didn’t reform twenty years later and release a substandard album that didn’t do justice to their legacy. They spent 7 years recording incredible music and then broke up after releasing what some say is their greatest album (Abbey Road is a favourite with a lot of Beatles fans).
The Beatles were just one of those freak moments that we’re probably never going to see again. Two freakishly gifted songwriters found each other and hooked up with another great writer (who became better in their presence). They cherry picked the best drummer they knew and were lucky enough to find a producer who brought out their best. There’s a reason why they’re the most popular music act of the last 50 years. They were just better than everyone else.