Writing for The Observer newspaper in 1983, the British poet Philip Larkin declared that “when you get to the top, there is nowhere go but down”. Not a confession but rather his take on the Beatles. To Larkin’s mind, they were isolated from their peers, stranded for all eternity at the summit, there to operate in “the rarified atmosphere of hagiolatry” that their talents and the rush of “some unsuspected socio-emotional pressure” had transported them to.
Larkin was looking back over a single fractious decade, one which culminated tragically in murder, but he was on the money. Some 40 years after decades of revision and a succession of legacy projects, the Beatles’ cultural standing is set in amber. Like them or not – there are many who don’t, and many who pretend they don’t – they remain, in the poet’s words, “unreachable, frozen, fabulous”.