So you want to know where to start if you want to delve more deeply into The Beatles? The following suggestions assume that you are already familiar with their music. If you're not, first of all, welcome to planet earth! I'm sorry your radio was broken for so many light years. Second, you should listen to the two greatest hits albums The Beatles 1962-1966 and The Beatles 1967-1970. You might as catch up to everyone else on earth who knows these songs by heart.
Step 1: Please Please Me, With The Beatles, A Hard Day's Night
The best way to experience The Beatles is to do it chronologically. That way you can really get a good sense of their artistic growth. Here, as you start with their early period, you can see just what made the world fall in love with these guys.
Step 2: Help!, Rubber Soul, Revolver
Here we're moving more into the middle of The Beatles' career. As they discovered Bob Dylan and pot, the lyrics would become more sophisticated and the music--thanks to many innovative studio techniques--more complex. These three albums show a band slowly maturing.
Step 3: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Magical Mystery Tour, Yellow Submarine Soundtrack
The psychedelic 60s! Heavily influenced by Eastern sounds and philosophies, the music and lyrics expand the mind and spread the world that love is all you need. *Gives peace sign*
Step 4: The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album), Abbey Road, Let It Be
Here, with the late period Beatles, we hear the band heading toward their demise. But though they drifted apart, they never let it affect the quality of their music.
Step 5: A Hard Day's Night, Help!, Yellow Submarine
Next watch the better Beatles movies. Start with A Hard Day's Night, which captures the fab four at the height of their fabness. Then do Yellow Submarine, and excellent example of 60s psychedelic animation. Finish with Help!, which is, um, an acquired taste, but the musical numbers are great.
Step 6: Past Masters Volume I and II
These two records are collections of various singles, B-sides, EPs, and other rarities. It's a must-hear for anyone on their way to true Beatles fandom.
Step 7: The First U.S. Visit, Magical Mystery Tour, Let It Be
The other three Beatles movies, which are a bit harder to find. First U.S. Visit is the title the Maysles Brothers (of Gimme Shelter fame) documentary about The Beatles' arrival in America to play The Ed Sullivan Show has been released under. Let It Be features the famous rooftop concert, but, as it chronicles the band breaking up, can be kind of painful to watch. Magical Mystery Tour was directed by the boys themselves--while they were high. Don't expect to understand anything.
Step 8: Solo Beatles
Though they were never as big as they were together, the four Beatles by themselves had fairly successful solo careers. Yes, even Ringo. Recommended albums: John Lennon's Imagine, George Harrison's All Things Must Pass, and Paul McCartney's other band's Band on the Run.
Step 9: Anthology
If you're willing to watch an 8 hour documentary and listen to three volumes of unreleased recordings, outtakes, and instrumental bits, then you're verging on becoming a hard-core Beatles fan. There's also a book version of Anthology that expands on a lot of the stuff from the documentary and has some cool pictures.
Step 10: Alternate Mixes
You might want to check out Let It Be... Naked which strips away Phil Spector's production and presents the album as the band (Paul) originally intended. Or you might want to try the North American releases which have a different track orders (some songs were cut so Capitol could put them on extra albums) and slightly different mono mixes.
Step 11: Parodies
There are many Beatles parodies out there, but the greatest of them all is The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash conceived by Eric Idle and produced by Lorne Michaels. This mockumentary about "the pre-fab four" whose music would "last a lunchtime," which features Neil Innes of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and several of SNL's not-yet-ready-for-prime-time players, is spot-on. And no wonder, considering George Harrison, who has a brief cameo, served as a consultant.
Step 12: Miscellaneous
There are a few other things you should check out that don't really fit into categories. The first is Across the Universe, a movie musical using only Beatles songs. The plot's a little cliched, but the songs are used well, and the performances are brilliant. This project could have gone horribly wrong (think the movie version of Sgt. Pepper's--strongly not recommended), but thankfully it didn't. The second is the Cirque du Soleil production set to Beatles music called Love. If that's not really your thing, I'd still recommend checking out the soundtrack to it, in which a bunch of Beatles songs are lovingly remixed by Sir George Martin and his son. Finally, those of you out there who secretly wish you could join the band, there's The Beatles edition of the popular Rockband games. It's a lot of fun, and there are great "prizes" to be won in the form of archival material. Plus, once you've tried the drums, you will never make fun of Ringo again.