Can’t help buying a single

Over the coming weeks, Elvis’s 18 UK number one singles will be re-released.

Short of a New Year’s resolution? Here’s one that doesn’t involve dieting, cutting back or doing without in any way. Sure, you must follow a programme, but the flow of good works is guaranteed until April. (As if you’re going to give up reality TV and doughnuts for that long.) Friends, over the next four months, the secret of self-improvement is this: buy an Elvis single every week – and bring a little rock ‘n’ roll wonder into your world-weary, wooden hearts.

Elvis Presley would have been 70 on Saturday and, to celebrate the anniversary of his birth (hot dawg, I’m proud to be a fellow Capricorn), SonyBMG is re-releasing all the King’s 18 UK number one singles over 17 consecutive weeks, ending on 25 April. All Shook Up, his first UK number one in June 1957, was re-released on Monday, together with a collector’s box designed to house the entire re-issue. This extra packaging makes it ineligible for the charts, so Jailhouse Rock (originally a hit in January 1958) was also paroled again this week.

Each single includes its original B-side and a bonus third track, and is available on ‘imitation vinyl’ CD – complete with black finish and label copy – or ten-inch record. Here’s the clincher – they all come with bright-as-a-button replicas of the authentic artwork. In fact, you get two for the price of one.

The outer bag is the original US picture sleeve, mostly featuring Elvis looking like a technicolour Fonz from Happy Days, though on Good Luck Charm he could almost pass for a chipmunk-cheeked Bill Clinton. The inner bag recreates the branded, die-cut paper sleeve that RCA used in the UK.

‘Unfortunately, the artwork on most singles then went uncredited, so we have no idea who did the original photography or design,’ says Stuart Crouch, creative director at Peacock Design and the man appointed to scan, reset and reproduce it for SonyBMG.

The results are hugely beguiling: Elvis is awful purdie and the whole effect feels like a time capsule from pop culture’s infancy. The mid-1950s Sun Sessions might have been Elvis’s most seismic musical statement, but this is where the marketing people began to capitalise on his X Factor. Whatever happened next?

All Shook Up and Jailhouse Rock are out now. The next single in the series, One Night, is released on 10 January

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