LAST Friday I enjoyed a hard day’s night.

It was 20 years ago today Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play. And it was 80 years ago that day that John Lennon was born.

Of course he only reached half that age. He was shot dead on December 8, 1980 by a crazed fan called Mark Chapman. My little sister at the time was convinced he’d been shot by Charlie Chaplin.

But his birthday was commemorated on BBC 4 by almost six hours of uninterrupted Beatles or John Lennon documentaries and performances.

The last hour, “Sings The Beatles”, featured other musicians recreating their songs, with varying degrees of success. Some are difficult to listen to.

But by then I had switched to the Sky Arts channel for another three hours of the real thing.

Those who know me know of my great affection for The Beatles, and many share it up to a point. But I don’t really see how anyone can dislike them.

The music is so varied and inventive that there’s something in it for everyone. Whether you’re primarily a fan of classical music, jazz, folk, blues, hip-hop or country and western – and there must be some – the chances are that there are still one or two Beatles songs you’ll like.

Its variety is one of its most noteworthy characteristics. All groups and composers change their style over time, and some were more productive than The Beatles.

Queen, for example, recorded 14 studio albums in 19 years, and their style – and quality – vary a lot.

The Beatles produced 12 studio albums in the space of just eight years. And Please Please Me is a million miles from Magical Mystery Tour.

The most patchy of them to my mind is The White Album, which bears the malign influence of Yoko Ono’s singing in its most disagreeable parts. I don’t rate the George Harrison or Ringo Starr compositions very highly.

But The White Album is still good, with Back In The USSR, Dear Prudence and Helter Skelter among its tracks.

Lennon’s anniversary is significant because he was the founder of the group. It was first The Quarrymen, after Quarry Bank Grammar School where he was a pupil, and then John Lennon and The Silver Beetles, modelled on Buddy Holly and The Crickets.

He came up with the pun on “beat” to give them their ultimate name.

His songwriting partnership with Paul McCartney is the most successful in the whole history of music. Although the songs were credited to both, they were largely writing on their own, particularly later on. Whoever sang it is usually its major composer.

And many of the most popular – such as Yesterday and Hey Jude – were McCartney compositions. When guests on Desert Island Discs want one Beatles song, Yesterday is the most common choice.

But when it comes to their solo careers I’d say Lennon won out. Songs like Jealous Guy, Woman, Imagine or Beautiful Boy have the edge over Mull of Kintyre, Pipes of Peace or McCartney’s collaboration with The Frog Chorus, We All Stand Together.

It wasn’t just their songwriting that set The Beatles head and shoulders above any group before or since.

It was their irreverence – most often exemplified by Lennon. He is well remembered for his comment at the 1963 Royal Variety Show.

He said: “For our next song, I’d like to ask for your help. For the people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands... and the rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewellery.”

It doesn’t seem that exceptional now but in the early 1960s, when the satire boom was only just getting underway, poking fun at politicians or royals was something new. It spoke of a new era.

And Lennon will have the eternal gratitude of four-eyed people everywhere for making glasses trendy. As soon as I discovered I needed them for reading and writing I went looking for a pair just like his.

You may or may not welcome wall-to-wall Beatles on TV. Many don’t welcome wall-to-wall football, or golf, or news.

But can you imagine anyone other than The Beatles getting this sort of attention 50 years after they split, or 40 years after the death of their founder?

In decades to come will we be hearing about Girls Aloud, One Direction or the Sugababes?

Brass bands play Beatles tunes. In the future are we going to enjoy brass renditions of Whigfield, Daphne and Celeste or Babylon Zoo?

Does anyone even remember who they are?