There is some music that hits you so hard - that touches your core so deeply - that you cannot logically quantify or qualify the experience. Why, why now, and why this? There is synchronicity at work here, the collective unconscious. It is for this reason above all others that the Beatles are still selling records in record numbers.
I read a music article today that made a lot of sense logically. The argument was that the Beatles became famous and well-loved originally because of the simplicity of their musical/lyrical combinations; their accessibility, their generality, their universality, as opposed to some kind of intangible singularity. Everybody knows what it feels like to want to hold someone's hand, right? Right.
The only hitch in this argument is that they were rather singular as opposed to universal: their story is not common and neither is their music. Even people who aren't "fans" of the Beatles know their music. They know the rhythms, the melody, and the lyrics. If this were due just to simplicity and universality, then most pop songs would fall into the same category. So what was different about the Beatles?
There is something greater at work. I know this sounds like an overstatement of talent, but bear with me for a minute, there is more of an argument to come.
Have you ever met a person in your life who you knew was pushing for a higher consciousness with every inch of their being? They vibrated with their own urgency. Have you ever had a late-night conversation with a stranger that brought you more peace of mind and honest insight than your everyday interactions with your best friends? What about that moment when you are doing the thing you love best of all, and you move into what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi would term a "state of flow"? Or maybe you were reading a book and a sentence made you really think for a long time, and dig for something more that was hiding inside of you. Or maybe a name or an idea followed you around for months, and when you finally came to it - opened yourself to it - you found exactly what you were looking for all along. Or you were almost magnetically drawn to another person, without any reason or sense at all, and yet things happened to work the way you knew they had to all along because you could feel it. These things happen everyday, and it is an impoverished person who does not notice and crave them every moment of their life. There is something greater at work, but it isn't happening far away from you. It's happening inside you and all around you at every moment.
Now the Beatles had a member/members pushing for a higher consciousness - maybe not completely knowingly, and maybe not in those words, but their music vibrates with too high a frequency for that not to be true. There is something universal about it, and it is the same thing that is so special that takes place in every person and living thing. It is the Emersonian Spirit. It doesn't fall into place every time, with every song, but it happens often enough that people start to notice.
You listen to Abbey Road while walking in the rain,
between the trees on the quad that were planted hundreds of years ago,
and will live hundreds of years longer than you if there is any justice in the world,
and you can feel the heartbeat of the universe under your feet,
and just as you notice it,
you also notice that "Golden Slumbers" is mimicking that heartbeat,
like a baby on its mother's chest,
and it progresses with the beat of your feet,
and the tick of the rain on your head,
and the leaves shake with you,
as your back shudders,
and the world is bigger in your mind because of a song in a moment.
That's what makes them great, and it is the same thing that makes any music great. It is an ability to tune into the universe, and discover it in words that anyone can sing along with, and that anyone can understand, and maybe hope to understand better and grow alongside.