It is now my intent to write some sweeping generalizations about the history and development of Popular music in three generations of recording artists.
The recording career of the Beatles spanned 12 studio albums in only 8 short years. Their career is noted by the relentless quality of their work, as well as different phases in personal appearance, musical exploration, and cultural impact. In one breath we can speak of both Beatle-mania and the Bigger than Jesus debacle.
Their first single, Love Me Do, was released in 1962, but it was not until their 1964 studio release, Introducing… The Beatles, that the band was established as the first great Pop sensation.
The second generation Pop icon was Michael Jackson spanning from 1979, with the release of Off the Wall, through 1991 with the album Dangerous. Again, his career his noted by a revolution in musical style, visual appearance, and Pop Culture acknowledgment.
Retrospectively, Michael Jackson is perhaps the most polarizing figure in Pop music because of the dramatic shifts in cultural acceptance. There was the completely baffling craze for the single white glove, the moonwalk, and Thriller. While on the other hand, there was also Neverland Ranch, court trials and accusations, and a baby dangling incident.
The third generation Pop iconoclast is Radiohead. (I use the present tense verb IS knowingly.) The band was formed in 1985, and experienced its first glimpse of success in 1993 with the release of the album Pablo Honey, and the single Creep. In 1994 the band recorded it's second album The Bends with producer John Leckie from Abbey Road Studios (coincidence?) With the advent of this album, as well as the subsequent release OK Computer Radiohead established itself as the new voice of Popular Music. Following this accreditation, they intentionally and dramatically changed their sound with the release of albums Kid A and Amnesiac.
There is no question as to the consistent quality of Radiohead's catalogue, and the diverse stylistic changes they underwent. As for their impact on and assimilation into Pop culture, I believe we have to turn to their music videos as a thumbprint for the time, and a generalization about the mood and style of the listeners.
Of course I recognize that I am making sweeping generalizations by lumping all commercial music together as pop music.
Of course I recognize that I am neglecting to mention any number of important and commercially successful artists in the development of this genre.
However, I do this because I see these artists as the three artists who completely took the genre on their shoulders and issued change in sound, appearance, and cultural appreciation, with long term influence and musical output.