The adage about people only remember the winners, those who came in second or third do not get enough credit. In the world of modern music (i.e. stuff churned out popularly over the last 100 years), we can debate it to death but The Beatles would probably come out tops again and again. So much so that their music and the band members (even the pathetic Ringo Starr) are always revered no end.
If The Beatles did not exist ... who do you think will take over that mantelpiece? Its a great topic for bar talk. It is also very good to bring up the achievements of the runner ups ... many whom we will casually write off or be forgotten even though their contributions were just as enormous.
The Beatles had a different sound, its not like Presley's rock n roll (basically a white man doing a black man singing rock n roll, and tons of charisma). It also helped enormously that they came out of UK to conquer the US of A. Fair to say, the best progressive sounds almost inevitably came from the UK over the past 40 years, except for the period where Seattle contributed enormously.
So, who would we be lauding if there were no Beatles?
Top of my list would be The Beach Boys, the lacked the pull of The Beatles largely because they did not really conquer the rest of the world like The Beatles. They were categorised as beach-Californian-happy-go-lucky music, but OMG the immense talents of Brian Wilson rivaled Lennon-McCartney for sure. Just listen to the melodies and lyrics of these two songs. The inter layered melodies, harmonies and instrumentation all guided to a crescendo.
We can name tons of hits which many do not even know were The Beach Boys but when put together its massive: Help Me Rhonda, Surfin USA, Wouldn't It Be Nice, Don't Worry Baby, I Get Around, California Girls, ... the exquisitely beautiful God Only Knows.
The Beach Boys had a reunion tour last year and even stopped in Singapore, not much fuss was made, but can you imagine if The Beatles had a reunion tour today ... why the huge difference ... to me The Beach boys were sooo good too but now they are widely perceived as just another great rock and roll outfit of the past ... sigh. Much like how everybody under-rates how important Rush is to rock music history and evolution. (Probably cause they are Canadians). Next to The Beach Boys, other worthy contenders would have been The Monkees, CCR and The Hollies ... though I wasn't around to hear them, I am not that old but to be around in the 60s would have been wild with the emergence of such musical talents.
What's you pick ...