Pink Floyd may be the only rock band that can credibly be compared to both the Beatles and Spinal Tap.

Its mid-’70s sonic triumphs — including The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here — are both aural delights and meaningful works of art whose message is conveyed through sound. The members of the band — Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright — approached their work seriously and blew minds in the process.

And it’s possible this perennially popular band has had its popularity underestimated. Over the years, I’ve become extremely impressed with an amateur music-industry analyst who lives in France, Guillaume Vieira. He obsessively collects worldwide sales data. Not sales claims; sales data. You can read his 51 pages of Pink Floyd sales data here. The upshot: Pink Floyd has sold more albums worldwide than the Beatles. Floyd recorded over a longer period, of course, but both groups have released about the same number of albums, and had about the same span of decades to sell their work to new generations — and in new configurations.

And yet … the band’s famous works were recorded over an extremely short period, in a recording career that has now stretched nearly to five decades. Much of the rest of it was filled by wildly veering musical approaches, big misfires, aesthetic excesses, pratfalls, and wide-ranging acts of buffoonery you wouldn’t find surprising in a This Is Spinal Tap outtake reel.

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