Elvis, the audacious new biopic from Baz Luhrmann, is designed to introduce Elvis Presley to new audiences. Of course, for decades the King of Rock and Roll would’ve needed no introduction. Elvis was indeed everywhere, even after his untimely death, staying in the public eye through imitators, oldies radio, repackages, and rumors of a still-living Presley visiting a Burger King in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It’s been a while since there’s been that much activity surrounding Elvis. The most recent revival arrived 20 years ago when the compilation ELV1S: 30 #1 Hits rocketed to No. 1 on the album charts while a glitzy remix of “A Little Less Conversation” became an actual hit. So perhaps the time is ripe for something like Elvis, a movie so intent on celebrating the image and legend of Presley, that it blurs the lines between fact and fiction, present and past.
This same aesthetic is apparent on the picture’s accompanying soundtrack, which is filled with songs like Eminem’s “The King And I,” which reworks “Jailhouse Rock” into a track where the spirit of Elvis is more important than the music itself. While the soundtrack may indeed spark new interest in Elvis Presley, it may also whet appetites for original Elvis recordings. But since he released dozens of albums in his lifetime and there’ve been countless compilations and reissues over the years, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by Presley’s discography (recently deceased chart historian Joel Whitburn named Presley as the number one artist in Billboard history, with over 160 singles on the charts over the years). To help both newcomers and longtime fans navigate that extensive catalog, The A.V. Club has whittled down the King’s daunting discography to 30 essential tunes, listed here in chronological order. Use this list as a guide through one of the monumental catalogs in popular music.