Isn't there something wrong if today's teenagers really rate mum's and dad's fave raves ahead of Oasis and Radiohead?
THE MOST comprehensive survey ever of popular music taste ever has just been published by Virgin. The Top 1,000 Albums of All Time survey put the Beatles squarely at the top of the pops: Revolver was voted the best album ever, followed by Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The "White Album" and Abbey Road were also in the top five. And, says Colin Larkin, who spent three years compiling the list, these are favourites among all ages - even among those who were born long after the Fab Four were in their heyday.

Can hits from their parents' adolescence really strike a chord with today's children? After all, pop is one of the most ephemeral forms of culture: it reflects the mood of the moment. Being into what your mum and dad like is usually seen as hopelessly uncool. But, says Colin Larkin, when people were invited to submit their top 20 albums, "we were getting lists from 12-year-olds which put Revolver above Oasis and Radiohead, which was extraordinary. Almost every entry from a teenager had at least one Beatles album on it".

David Morgan, 14, says he grew up loving the Beatles. "My mum and dad have all their albums. My favourite track is `Norwegian Wood'. I still like chart songs, but the Beatles are more solid and real, not so throwaway. I like Oasis and the Verve as well, but I heard the Beatles first."

Karen Bishop, 19, isn't surprised at their enduring appeal. "You tend to absorb Beatles songs when you're quite young, like nursery rhymes almost, you hear things like `Love Me Do', `Yesterday', `Yellow Submarine' and all the obvious ones all the time. If you hate the gooey stuff there's things like `Maxwell's Silver Hammer' and `Why Don't We Do It In The Road?' - or even the dreadful sitar stuff by George Harrison."

MUSIC writer Nigel Williamson is also unsurprised that teenagers are listening to the Beatles. "These are kids who have been listening to very contemporary Nineties bands who have been heavily influenced by the Beatles," he says. "Rock and roll is now a classic form with its own history - when the Beatles were at their height in the Sixties pop music was only a decade old and there was a very limited back catalogue. Music needs a sense of its own tradition - we shouldn't forget where it all came from." The reason why it's the Beatles, not the Stones or the Kinks, is simply, he says, because of the songs. "There's no doubt they are the most gifted songwriters of the last 40 years."

For many youngsters, however, the Beatles are not much more than a name. "I've heard the Beatles being mentioned, but I don't really know a lot about them," says Natalie, 11. She prefers All Saints and boy band Five, though not the Spice Girls. "I used to be a really big fan a few years ago, but now I'm not so keen."

Harriet Plant, 15, admits to liking Sgt Pepper. "I would choose to listen to it but it's not in my top three favourites," she says. She and her friends like B*witched, All Saints, 911 and Billie. "Most of my friends like newer music because they don't hear older music," she explains. "My dad listens to Sixties music in the car and my mum gives me her old tapes. She listens to Pink Floyd, but I don't like him."

Stephen Titmus, 13, likes garage and dance music; his favourite artists are Jamiroquai and the Fugees. He has never heard of Revolver. "I'm not really into guitars and that. I don't like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones - it's just not my scene."

And polls notwithstanding, the cutting-edge pop world has little patience with old-timers. The current edition of Smash Hits magazine has a feature on "Old Gits In Pop" which cites pathetic old crumblies such as Sheryl Crow, Suggs and Bryan Adams. John Hindmarch, 25, who writes for Smash Hits, is cynical about the Beatles' supposed army of teen fans. "I can imagine teenagers would recognise the songs, but when you're that age there is a very strong belief that the music of the moment is good and older music is for mum and dad - it's not cool," he says. "It's part of being a generation to think your own music is best.

"Kids nowadays have more choice, they have their own CD players and they spend a lot of money on music," says Hindmarch. (This year's Wall's Pocket Money Monitor showed that children spend 27 per cent of their pocket money on CDs and tapes, which come second only to sweets.) Reflecting this, pop culture is changing and speeding up. Today there isn't the building period where artists consolidate their early work. "These days artists hit the top a lot faster. In the Eighties, you didn't go to number one in the charts with your first single," says Hindmarch. "Because of the way media and marketing works artists get big very quickly. And expectations are a lot higher. Smash Hits was the only pop magazine when it started. Now there's MTV, cable channels, lots of magazines, so before a new band even has a record out it has been seen by millions of kids."

THE casualties of this approach litter the highway of rock. Take That, for example, once the biggest band on the planet, are now terminally uncool. Perhaps it's this disposable aspect of the idols of the Nineties that allows the ancient supergroups to endure, as modern supernovas flame brightly then disappear without trace. John Hindmarch believes that the fickle younger audience naturally has a short attention span, whether they are listening to the Beatles or to Boyzone. "Older listeners will be prepared to wait two years for a new album from a group they like. For bands in our market, if they are gone for a while, people forget them. These days a year is a long time in pop music."


ALL SAINTS. Four girls, Mel, Nat, Nic and Shaznay, in khaki combat trousers and vests (it's the music that's important, not the look). Nic and Nat are sisters; Mel is pregnant and is proudly displaying her bump. Big hit: Never Ever.

AQUA. Squeaky bubbly Euro-types Lene, Rene, Claus and Soren, all Scandinavian. Have been described as a Nineties version of The Monkees, as if such a thing were needed. Big hit: Barbie Girl.

BILLIE. Billie Piper's first single went straight to No. 1 earlier this summer. Of this triumph, the builder's daughter from Swindon, 15, said: "Up until now the only singing I've done has been in the bath." Big hit: Because We Want To.

B*WITCHED. Another girlie foursome, Edele, Lindsay, Keavy and Sinead. Also straight to No 1 with first single. Recently had to apologise for swearing at 8am on children's TV. Big hit: C'est La Vie.

BOYZONE. Boy band fronted by heart-throb Ronan Keating. Something of a pop dinosaur, having been going since 1994. Fail in the cool stakes for recording latest song with Andrew Lloyd Webber. Big hit: No Matter What.

CLEOPATRA. Teenage sisters, Zainam, Yonah and Cleo, signed to Madonna's Maverick label for pounds 1m six months ago. Three top 10 hits already. Mum keeps an eye on them: she's their backing singer. Big hit: I Want You Back.

FIVE. Cunningly-named boy band (there are five of them), put together by the team that created the Spice Girls. They are Jason (known as J), Scott, Abs, Rich and Sean, and have gone from being unknown to pin-ups in less than a year; their first single hit the top 10.

Big hit: Everybody Get Up.

KAVANA. Spotted by Take That's manager, he made his first album straight out of school as a teen sensation (he's 20 now). His real name is a closely guarded secret, though he has let slip that his surname is Kavanagh and to create his stage name he simply dropped the "gh". A protege of Lulu, who introduced him to Buddhism.

Big hit: Special Kind Of Something.

911. Yet another boy band, a threesome this time. Spike, Lee and Jimmy are the biggest-selling band in the far east. Upset their British fans earlier this summer by calling off a promised tour; weeping fans had queued for 30 hours for front row seats. Big hit: All I Want Is You.