Q: Which is biggest band of all time? A: And readers say...

Album sales, audience sizes and time spent in the charts combine to put the British foursome at the top

They were famed for their 20-minute opuses and grandiose stadium shows featuring flying pigs. Now Pink Floyd have received an accolade to match the enormity of their sound and performances - by being named the biggest band of all time, ahead of acts such as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.

They were famed for their 20-minute opuses and grandiose stadium shows featuring flying pigs. Now Pink Floyd have received an accolade to match the enormity of their sound and performances - by being named the biggest band of all time, ahead of acts such as Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.

Writers for Q magazine have compiled a top 50 of what they reckon to be the music world's biggest groups, placing Pink Floyd - the band whose Dark Side of the Moon album is estimated to be owned by one in every 18 Americans - at the top of the chart.

The Beatles, on the other hand, manage just eighth place, despite their huge sales, behind arch rivals the Rolling Stones and even Dire Straits.

The magazine sized up each band's performance with a points system that measured sales of their biggest album, the scale of their biggest headlining show and the total number of weeks spent on the UK album chart. Difficulties in finding accurate and reliable figures mean it is virtually impossible to compare on total album sales alone.

Pink Floyd, the quartet that began life as a group of psychedelic space cadets playing in London's underground clubs before developing its defining, epic sound, triumphed with sales of 23.3 million for the 1979 album The Wall. That figure could be dwarfed by 1973'sDark Side of the Moon, but there are huge holes in sales records for that release which spent 14 years in the US Billboard chart. The largest live show - 125,000 at Knebworth Park in 1975 - and 911 weeks in the UK charts consolidated their position at the top.

Q editor Paul Rees said: "I must say I suspected it might have been Queen at number one, but then when you think of the huge sales of The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon it would have to be Pink Floyd. If you look at the top 10 you would expect those bands to be in there. It's slightly more surprising that the champagne corks are popping for bands such as Erasure (ranked 47) and Hootie & the Blowfish (40). I was genuinely stunned to see them in there."

Led Zeppelin, the masters of heavy blues, were runners-up thanks to their trump card of 22 million sales of their untitled fourth album. The Rolling Stones finished third, buoyed in the list by the half-million-strong crowd at their Hyde Park show in 1969.

Radio 2 presenter Bob Harris said Pink Floyd owed their success to the multimedia approach. "I'm lucky enough to have been there almost at the start in the days of the UFO club and Middle Earth. The interesting thing was this idea of pushing the boundaries," he said. "They made sure they came on stage with visuals and liquid light shows and took great care with their artwork. There was a conscious decision to expand and experiment. They were one of the first bands to do tracks that last more than two and a half minutes."

The full list of the top 50 bands will be published in the November edition of Q.

THE TOP 50

The top 50 bands of all time compiled by Q based on album sales, weeks in the UK album chart and the scale of the biggest headlining gigs.

1) Pink Floyd

2) Led Zeppelin

3) Rolling Stones

4) U2

5) Queen

6) Dire Straits

7) Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

8) The Beatles

9) Bob Marley and the Wailers

10) Fleetwood Mac

11) The Eagles

12) The Beach Boys

13) Oasis

14) Bon Jovi

15) Guns N' Roses

16) Nirvana

17) Genesis

18) Bee Gees

19) Metallica

20) Boston

21) R.E.M.

22) Backstreet Boys

23) Red Hot Chili Peppers

24) AC/DC

25) The Police

26) Steve Miller Band

27) ABBA

28) Santana

29) Simply Red

30) Supertramp

31) The Carpenters

32) Journey

33) Spice Girls

34) Def Leppard

35) Deep Purple

36) UB40

37) Aerosmith

38) Wham!

39) Pearl Jam

40) Hootie & the Blowfish

41) Status Quo

42) Simple Minds

43) Wet Wet Wet

44) 'N Sync

45) Eurythmics

46) Duran Duran

47) Erasure

48) The Shadows

49) Boyz II Men

50) Van Halen

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