Monday, February 23, 2009

A Night at the Grovers

The Oscar pools are over and the little gold men have been doled out, so now it's time to roll out the blue carpet and hand out the little furry blue monsters! As a belated tie-in to the Academy Awards, I've made up some arbitrary Oscar-themed categories of cover songs for you, the Academy of Fong Songs Readers, to vote on by secret ballot. Write-ins are welcome, but please no ballot stuffing, this isn't the NHL All-Star Game. Note: if Google Reader is any indication, voting won't work from the RSS feed, so drop by for a real visit! Grover-winners will be announced at the end the week along with some more tunes for your consideration. On with the show!

This category is for artists who have won an Academy Award for Best Original Song as opposed to an acting award, so no Sinatra or Cher.

Bob Dylan - This Old Man [Traditional]
I forgot Dylan won an Oscar for the song Things Have Changed from 2000's Wonder Boys. This rendition of This Old Man sounds exactly as you might imagine if you were told beforehand that Bob Dylan was covering a children's nursery rhyme, complete with harmonica and his trademark vocals. Theoretically it could also sound like this.

Melissa Etheridge - Born to Run [originally by Bruce Springsteen]
I don't really understand at all the snub of The Boss for his title song for The Wrestler when there were only three nominated songs, two of which were from Slumdog Millionaire. Did you know 1945 Oscars had fourteen nominees in this category?? Now that's pretty absurd, but I don't get how THREE songs from TWO movies is reflective of "Best Original Song" for all of 2008. Melissa Etheridge, winner in '06 for I Need to Wake Up from An Inconvenient Truth, covered Springsteen at the 2001's Concert for New York City. Hopefully next year Bruce will get a Best Live-Action Short Film nomination for this.

Jorge Drexler - High & Dry [originally by Radiohead]
Jorge Drexler's Al Otro Lado del Río from The Motorcycle Diaries won for Best Original Song at the 2004 Oscars, though he was replaced during the song performance portion of the ceremony by the more "audience-friendly" Carlos Santana and Antonio Banderas. Instead Drexler sang a bit of his song a cappella during his acceptance speech.


The number of Disney song winners is staggering, so I excluded them completely from this category. Perhaps unfairly, but I'm arbitrarily setting the rules-- like the real Academy!

Dorothy Ashby - The Windmills of Your Mind [originally by performed by Noel Harrison]
Winner in 1968 for The Thomas Crown Affair, this stunning cover by jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby is one of my favourites. From the 1969 album Dorothy's Harp, this could've come out next week and still sound hip and current.

Nick Cave - Let It Be [originally by The Beatles]
Did you know The Beatles won an Oscar? I sure didn't, but they did for Best Original Song Score in 1970 for Let It Be (the film). "Original Song Score" is distinct from "Original Score" and "Original Song" and appears to have been completely phased out as a category in the mid-80s. Someone will have to explain the intricacies of that to me. Anyway this cover is from the all-Beatles cover soundtrack for I Am Sam, of course the film in which Sean Penn "went full retard and went home empty handed" at the 2002 Oscars. But he took one home last night, so take that Robert Downey Jr. in blackface!

Manic Street Preachers - Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head [originally by performed by B.J. Thomas]
Hal David and Burt Bacharach won the Best Song Oscar for writing this memorable ditty from Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.

The Dan Band - Flashdance/Fame [originally performed by Irene Cara]
We got a combo here with two Oscar winning songs performed by The Dan Band, known for their profanity-is-funny covers from Old School, Starsky & Hutch, and a live album.

Sammy Davis, Jr. - Theme from Shaft [originally by Isaac Hayes]
I'm a sucker for the In Memory montage of every Oscars telecast. This year offered an different, yet respectful twist with Queen Latifah paying tribute in song in a more celebratory than mournful manner, though it was severely undermined by ill-advised cuts to wide shots of the stage with the miniscule unreadable text rendering several luminaries unidentifiable. Among those remembered was Isaac Hayes who passed away last year within a day or so of Bernie Mac with whom he co-starred in the film Soul Men that was released a couple months later. I love that Sammy Davis Jr. covered this iconic theme, which took home the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1971.


A little CanCon for you since it'd be nearly impossible to play this game with the Genie Awards. Go ahead, you can look that up on Wikipedia.

Molly Johnson - Streets of Philadelphia [originally by Bruce Springsteen]
This is from Molly's 2006 album Messin' Around, which also has an interpretation of Prince's Tangerine. Springsteen wrote this for the 1992 film Philadelphia. Unbeknownst to me, he was competing against Neil Young's Philadelphia also written for the film.

Michael Bublé - Call Me Irresponsible [originally by performed by Jackie Gleason]
Written by Sammy Cahn & Jimmy Van Heusen, this was famously covered by Frank Sinatra, who I suspect Bublé is channeling here from his 2007 album, also called Call Me Irresponsible.

Elizabeth Shepherd Trio - Beauty & The Beast [originally by Alan Menken & Howard Ashman]
Elizabeth Shepherd is up for Best Vocal Jazz Album at next month's Juno Awards, which are here in Vancouver this year. I had to send my friend to Japan to get this cover song, which comes from the compilation album Modal Jazz Loves Disney. This is like when George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or some big star goes to Japan to film/shoot advertisements that no one over here will see, which is unfortunate since it's a great cover of the Disney modern classic.

Holly Cole - Baby, It's Cold Outside [originally by Frank Loesser]
I didn't realize this song came from a film, but it won for 1949's Neptune's Daughter, which included two performances of the duet by the combos of Ricardo Montalbán(!) with Esther Williams and Red Skelton with Betty Garrett. Apparently multi-Oscar nominee Sigourney Weaver performed this song with buster Poindexter on an old episode of SNL.


It's really too bad Kevin Costner didn't record a cover of this song, leaving this a two-horse race. I would be astounded if anyone came up with a legit write-in vote for this.

Kevin Kline - La Mer [originally by Charles Trenet]
Kevin Kline, Oscar winner for A Fish Called Wanda, actually goes back to cover the original French version of Beyond the Sea, originally titled La Mer. Songwriter Jack Lawrence penned new English lyrics for the tune that are unrelated to the original lyrics beyond the reference to the sea (la mer).

Kevin Spacey - Beyond the Sea [as made famous by Bobby Darin]
Kevin Spacey won Oscars for The Usual Suspects, had a string of solid roles through the mid-90s, then capped it off with another win for American Beauty. Then he seemingly took a cue from Cuba Gooding Jr. and hasn't really done anything all that worthwhile since. Perhaps Men Who Stare at Goats will be a return to form (no joke). For his pet project biopic of idol Bobby Darin, Spacey produced a whole album of covers and even went on a mini-tour.


Like the Gordon E. Sawyer Award and the Irving G. Thalberg Award, this category is an honour of dubious merit bestowed on a particularly wretched cover song of my choosing performed by an Oscar winner. This isn't the William A. Shatner Award since he's unfortunately Oscarless and I find even his worst covers amusing and fascinating ("MISTER TAMBOURINE MMMAAAAaaaAAAAAAAAN!").

This year's inaugural award goes to its namesake, Joe Pesci singing in character as Vincent LaGuardia Gambini from My Cousin Vinny. It's from a frightening 1998 album of originals that includes such winners as Take Your Love and Shove It, Yo Cousin Vinny, and Wise Guy. This karaoke arrangement of the Louis Armstrong classic is not completely atrocious, but exceedingly unnecessary.

Joe Pesci - What a Wonderful World [originally by Louis Armstrong]


For this category, I deemed Oscar winners who were primarily musical artists ineligible to be nominated. I also excluded cover songs that were performed for a musical adapted for film. So as you might imagine, the shortlist for this award is rather short especially when the remaining covers must be deemed Grover-worthy. Try to ignore the famous names and keep your ears open. Here are the nominees:

Gwyneth Paltrow - Bette Davis Eyes [originally by Jackie DeShannon]
Modeled on the 80's Kim Carnes version, the mother of Apple covered this for the film Duets, which she starred in and was directed by her dad Bruce. The movie received mediocre to outright awful reviews, though I've always been a little curious to check it out because of its eclectic cast which includes Huey Lewis (as Gwyneth's dad I think?), Maria Bello, Andre Braugher, and Paul Giametti as competitors at a national karaoke championship, plus it's got a soundtrack of cover songs. Paltrow won the Best Actress Oscar for 1998's Shakespeare in Love.

Clint Eastwood - Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive [originally by Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer]
Speaking of snubs, didn't Gran Torino get nominated for anything? Mind you, I heard it wasn't Clint's best, but I know it was nominated for (and winning) some accolades earlier in the awards season and I would've liked to see Jamie Cullum perform at the Oscars. He co-wrote and performed with Clint Eastwood the title theme to Gran Torino, their second collaboration after the theme to Grace is Gone. Clint covered this song for his 1997 film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which also featured a jazz cover by Kevin Spacey probably before anyone realized he was a closet crooner. Eastwood has multiple nominations and two Best Picture and Director Oscars under his belt, and even an Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. Bonus Oscar connection: Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive was one of the 13 runner-ups in the 1945 Best Original Song Oscar competition.

Billy Bob Thornton & The Boxmasters - The Kids Are Alright [originally by The Who]
It may be hard to believe, but this ain't half-bad. This is from the second all-covers disc from The Boxmasters self-titled debut of last year, though Billy Bob has released several albums earlier. He's been nominated twice for acting Oscars, though his win is actually for writing Sling Blade. I just saw an earlier (and paunchier) Billy Bob in Tombstone a couple months ago and he was a hoot.

Finally, for your viewing entertainment: Grover's starring role in last year's hit monster flick, Groverfield.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cover Me Commissions

Head on over to Cover Me where Ray has introduced an exciting new monthly feature whereby he's recruited a musician to record an exclusive cover for Cover Me.

James Eric (who's no stranger to covers) is lending his talents to this first installment and here's the kicker: YOU get to vote on the song from a list of 10 potential covers. VOTE now!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ben Folds' Uni A Cappella nearly ready and other weird Ben Folds news from Canada

Ben just updated his myspace blog with a fun read about his recent project University A Cappella, which he's aiming for an April release. Read about it here.

If you hadn't heard about it, it's a album of a cappella covers of Ben's songs by university groups with the album proceeds benefitting VH1's Save the Music Foundation. A interesting bit of news is that Ben himself was politely coaxed into contributing two of his own a cappella re-arrangements for the album, Boxing and Effington:

"My label were very kind to be involved in this but they did insist that I contribute two tracks in order that they could justify the release. I thought, no problem. Big problem. If i wasn't in awe of these singing groups before, now that I've spent tens of hours arranging and recording two songs, I am now. Boxing was scored as a kind of four part jazz invention and was very time consuming. The voices are mostly mine and Jared Reynolds'. Basses were sung by the famous Webb Wilder, local vocal coach John Ray and our own Joe Costa. Effington filled what I perceived as a serious gap in the new wave a cappella arena. While Boxing is a pure and organic arrangement, Effington uses the studio in the way that some of the modern a cappella groups do."

Looking forward to this one, even though I can take or leave most college a cappella covers in general. According to this recent article in the Vancouver Sun, author Nick Hornby will be headed to Ben's Nashville studio in June to start recording their eagerly awaited collaboration.


Shortly after I had written up the blurb above, I caught wind of a bizarre non-event involving Ben Folds and Torquil Campbell of the Canadian indie band Stars stemming from an interview with Ben on the CBC Radio's Q, a pop culture talk show that's normally hosted by former Moxy Früvous member Jian Ghomeshi though guest host Laurie Brown was filling in yesterday. So during the show Brown played a track called Mrs. Morris (Reprise) from The Happiness Project, a conceptual album from Broken Social Scene member Charles Spearin. Ben made some comments (we'll get to that in a bit) including a reference to "bad spa music". After the show, this angry anti-Ben tirade was sent out on the Stars' myspace bulletin by Torquil Campbell, who also performs in BSS:

hi guys...well i know i'm gonna regret this, but i can't help myself. I just heard Ben Folds, who many of you prolly have never heard of because you don't waste your time listening to shitty mid nineties m.o.r. lite grunge, calling my friend Charles Spearins' BEAUTIFUL new record "bad spa music" on the CBC. BEN FOLDS! insulting CHARLES SPEARIN! is he fuckin' nuts? you come to our country and insult a national treasure on the radio? CHARLIE SPEARIN????? the most beautiful talented soulful brother in the whole world? a guy who has written some of the most influential, sublime music this side of heaven? WHo has just completed the Happiness Project, one of the most original and uplifting pieces of music i have EVER HEARD? Ben Folds, ladies and gentleman, is an ASSHOLE for dismissing this extraordinary tribute to life and love as 'bad spa music'. It makes me wanna......well you know.....kick his scrawny, washed up hipster doofus ass....but instead, i encourage you all to write to his myspace (he could use the visits) and imbed charles' music in your message so that every time some refugee from the nineties wants to hear their favourite ben folds ditty, they get charlie instead. i've said it before, and it feels right, so i'll say it again; BEN FOLDS IS AN ASSHOLE.
xo love and hate torq@stars

Whoa there, eh? Soon after this follow-up bulletin was posted:

hello everyone-
we don't know who put up their rant against ben folds here.......could have been anyone i guess.........but we don't know what the fuck all this is about... We do love charlie spearin............don't really know ben folds work...........anyway, i find it exciting that i dont even have to know whats going on to be contreversial..... i am now going to change the password on our myspace......i have to say, whoever you are, you've really got my style down!
wow, torq

So we've got a purportedly fake rant followed by a quick retraction, but not before Pitchfork jumped up with their own Take a Chill Pill, Torquil report, which they've also retracted (at least striked out). Must have been a sloooooooow news day.

By the way, take a listen to the "offending" clip:

In fact, the first thing Ben says is "Yeah, I loved it". See, I can take quotes out of context too.

The full 12-minute interview can be heard if you download the latest episode of the Q podcast in iTunes (search "CBC Q"). I'd upload the Ben portion of the show myself but I'm having major router pains which prevent me from uploading for more than a few seconds. In the interview, Ben chats about the a cappella album, Glenn Gould, and his university days among other things. They actually previewed two songs from disc, but the music is edited out of the podcast unfortunately. Guess we'll have to wait until April.

In other Ben happenings (busy day), his "Stems and Seeds" album is out now on Amazon and presumably elsewhere. When Way to Normal came out, fans were complaining that the mix was too loud and compressed... or something like that. I'm not really an audiophile, my ears kinda suck. So Ben actually listened and put out this two disc set, which contains Way to Normal remastered and resequenced with the fake leaked tracks, the rehearsal performance of You Don't Know Me from Conan O'Brien, and some other unreleased versions-- 20 tracks in all. The real zinger is a second disc of "stem" files that you can open in GarageBand or whatever and tinker with all the songs yourself! If you're a member of his fan club, theoretically this is already in the mail on its way to you (or ahem, me).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jack, Meg, & Conan

Set your PVR for this Friday's episode of Conan O'Brien, his last on the Late Show before he takes over the reins of the Tonight Show from Jay Leno at the beginning of June. The White Stripes will be sending him off in style with the duo's first live performance since their abruptly cancelled tour in fall 2007. You might remember a few years back in '03 when they were booked as the musical guests on Conan for a solid week. Conan also appeared in the music video for The Denial Twist directed by Michel Gondry, which was a surreal re-enactment of their appearances on Late Night. In 2007, Jack and Meg were back on the show performing the opening and closing tracks of Icky Thump. Not surprisingly, The Raconteurs have also been on the show in promotion of each of their albums.

Last summer Conan was on KCRW's Guest DJ Project and one of his music picks was The White Stripes' Ball & Biscuit. Surprisingly, Conan reveals that he first met Jack and Meg, pre-White Stripes in a Detroit bowling alley... listen here [MP3 REMOVED].

The bowling bit isn't that surprising. Back when The White Stripes toured cross Canada, they played one of their legendary secret shows in a Saskatoon bowling alley and it wasn't uncommon to hear stories of them lurking around bowling alleys all throughout the tour. I think there are at least two bowling-themed songs in the White Stripes repertoire (Hand Springs and Red Bowling Ball Ruth). And according to Tegan and Sara, Meg's got mad bowling skills...

The White Stripes - Black Jack Davey [trad.]
This folk ballad dates back in various forms to the 1700s and Bob Dylan covered it on his 1992 album Good as I Been to You. If you're a White Stripes fan, you'll know that they do more than their fair share of Bob Dylan covers.

The Raconteurs - Many Shades of Black (Live on Conan O'Brien)
On last year's appearance on Conan leading into Many Shades of Black, the boys pay tribute to Bo Diddley who had passed away earlier that day.

Conan O'Brien - Blue Moon of Kentucky [originally by Bill Monroe]
An unlikely, but sweet cover by Conan during a show last year.

C.W. Stoneking - Seven Nation Army [originally by the White Stripes]
I think Jack would be a big fan of this cover which sounds like an old school blues recording of St. James Infirmary, which the White Stripes incidentally covered on their self-titled debut album. This remarkable reworking of Seven Nation Army by Aussie artist C.W. Stoneking is from Triple J's Like a Version 4 compilation. More St. James Infirmary covers than you can shake a stick at here and here.
**EDIT: I was just listening to some other songs on C.W. Stoneking's myspace page and I can't believe it's a thirtysomething dude with that voice. It reminds me of that scene in Walk Hard where a young Dewey Cox jarringly sings with the ravaged voice of a old bluesman. Great sounding tunes.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Digital Valentines

Mobius Band has got a free covers EP for Valentine's Day:

Empire of Love
1. Say You Will [originally by Kanye West]
2. Love Hurts [originally performed by the Everly Brothers]
3. Lullaby [originally by Dixie Chicks]
4. Satellite [originally by TV on the Radio]
5. At My Window [originally by Townes Van Zandt]
6. You Don't Know How it Feels [originally by Tom Petty]

Head over to their official site to download the whole thing.

Digital Love [originally by Daft Punk]
This is from the free covers EP they released last year, which is still available.

By the way, the covers compilation Sweethearts should be out now. I haven't been by one of the multiplicity of nearby Starbucks to get it yet, but I noticed A.C. Newman's cover of A-Ha's Take on Me is already starting to make the rounds. Speaking of which, I'll be going to see the New Pornographers' frontman live next Friday here in Vancouver. Should be a good one.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Nelson Sings Nilsson in L.A.

If you're in Los Angeles next-next weekend, I strongly urge you to go see Sean Nelson (of Harvey Danger) perform the songs of Harry Nilsson at The Largo's Little Room. The show is Saturday February 21 at 10pm, all ages, $15 at the door. It is literally a little room that holds less than 100 people, so you'd definitely be in for a treat. While there are lush arrangements on the finished but never released Nelson Sings Nilsson album, this'll be a stripped down guitar/piano/vocal show.

And if you're really lucky, maybe Jon Brion will jump out of the audience, scramble for a guitar, and play an impromptu solo. That's what happened during a cover of Maybe I'm Amazed when Harvey Danger played last year in the Little Room:

Nelson is also in L.A. because a film that he stars in and co-wrote called My Effortless Brilliance was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award! More precisely, it's the film's director Lynn Shelton up for the "Someone to Watch" Award and she's up against animator Nina Paley, who Roger Ebert's been championing here. Shelton has already garnered more attention when her follow-up film Humpday premiered at Sundance a few weeks ago to good reviews.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

3 Years Worth of Beatles Covers on Ukulele... in progress

There's an ambitious project going on called The Beatles Complete on Ukulele, in which every single Beatles original (all 185 of them!) will be covered by various artists on ukulele with one being released every Tuesday. This started a few weeks ago and will continue every week up until July 24, 2012, which roughly coinciding with the start of the London 2012 Olympics. WOW.

The Beatles Complete on Ukulele was devised by music producers Roger Greenawalt and David Barrett after they had organized and performed in a benefit concert in December where over 100 singers and musicians performed all 185 Beatles songs over 14 hours. Then they took the "HUNDREDS of dollars" they raised, put it in a brown paper bag, and handed it over to philanthropist/World's Richest Man, Warren Buffett. What he intended to do with the money may surprise you. Warren's son, Peter, is one of the contributing artists who put forth a nice cover of You Never Give Me Your Money from Abbey Road for last week's cover. These are more than your average bedroom ukulele youtube covers (not that those aren't great) and you may be surprised to discover Beatles covers actually worth listening to.

So far...
Week 1: Dandelion Wine - While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Week 2: Kathena Bryant - Oh! Darling
Week 3: Peter Buffett - You Never Give Me Your Money

Definitely check out each week or add it to your RSS feed reader. Don't miss the liner notes either, which include info on the artists and a mini-essay about each song. You're in a for a real treat on Tuesday when a wonderful cover of Run For Your Life is posted (if you poke around the site, you may just stumble upon it early like I did).

With the whole project set up on Blogspot, I really hope their posts don't mysteriously start disappearing... speaking of which, a few days ago the LA Weekly ran an article about the Google blogger takedowns, an ominous read for bloggers.

Also, I haven't taken my own advice yet, but you should all go see Coraline, the Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas) directed stop-motion adaptation of Neil Gaiman's book since by all accounts it's awesome (as expected).

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Shaved and Confused

UPDATE: April 23, 2017
Good things come to those who wait, I guess. I originally wrote this post over 8 years ago and this musical mystery was apparently solved in 2014 when John Parr officially released The Best with this accompanying statement: "Never before released or broadcast “The Best” features John Parr's collaboration with Jake Holmes (author of Zeppelin's “Dazed and Confused”) to create a true epic."

They co-wrote it!  This wasn't exactly keeping me up at night for 8 years, but I can now resolve those few lingering brain cells that had been stewing on this.  Funnily enough, I was inspired to reinvestigate this "cold case" after recently discovering (in a fit of random internet research) that the original singer of the 1980s Gummi Bears Theme was Joseph Williams, son of composer John Williams, current lead singer of Toto, singing voice of adult Simba in The Lion King, and co-writer (English lyrics) of Sy Snootles song and the Ewok Celebration song (AKA "Yub Nub") from Return of the Jedi.


It's Super Bowl Sunday and have I got a fascinating, strange-but-true tale for you.
First, some back story: everyone knows Led Zeppelin's legacy is built on liberally "borrowed" riffs and material from other artists, which has landed them in legal problems on multiple occasions. It's an old story and well covered elsewhere, but that's not what we're here to talk about today. Our interest is focused on Dazed and Confused from Led Zeppelin's 1969 self-titled debut, which you may or not know was based on folk singer Jake Holmes' song of the same name.

At an August '67 show in New York City, Jake Holmes opened for The Yardbirds which is where Jimmy Page would first be exposed to the song. Soon after, The Yardbirds' new arrangement of the song quickly became a staple at live shows for the next year before the band disbanded. Page brought along Dazed and Confused to the newly formed Led Zeppelin and it was reworked further with new lyrics. The big controversy stems from fact that the song was (and is) credited solely to Jimmy Page. In spite of the fact he received no credit or royalties from the song, Jake Holmes surprisingly shrugs the whole thing off. In an interview, Holmes said "But you know what? It was just a blues riff that made up the melody anyway, and I think I got more mileage out of being ripped off in the long run. All the kids in my son's school think I'm a genius because of the Led Zeppelin song." At one point, he did send a letter to the band regarding acknowledgment but he never received a response.

Jake Holmes - Dazed and Confused

Here's where the story takes its first curious twist. While someone who gets ripped off by what would become one of the biggest rock bands of all-time might become bitter or pack it in, Jake Holmes went on to co-write a concept album for Frank Sinatra and several advertising jingles including the US Army's famous "Be All That You Can Be" and Lego's "Zack the Lego Maniac". Yes, the man who wrote Dazed and Confused wrote ZACK THE LEGO MANIAC.

Here's where the Superbowl fits into the equation. Twenty years ago nearly to the day: it's Super Bowl XXIII in Miami, Florida, January 22, 1989. For the previous year, Gillette ad executives had been toying with various concepts and performing extensive market research to create a new campaign that would strongly resonate with male shavers around the world with a powerful, emotional theme. At one point, the team had come up with 25 sample print ads with various slogans, but one grabbed everyone's attention: Gillette, The Best a Man Can Get. And guess who they commissioned to write the music and lyrics? That's right, our man Jake Holmes. The Best a Man Can Get ad made it's debut during Superbowl XXIII, kicking off an $80 million ad campaign across the US and Europe. The slogan is still in use today. Here's the original 1989 60-second spot with more lyrics than you may have remembered:

Next twist: you probably know of John Parr, as I do, from his 1985 hit St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion), co-written by David Foster. It may surprise you to learn that he is still performing live, as recently as last year opening throughout the UK for Journey, who just so happen to be a pre-show act at today's Super Bowl. Here's the zinger, at his shows he plays a full-length version of The Best a Man Can Get.

John Parr - The Best a Man Can Get
The idea that someone would bootleg a 2008 John Parr concert is fascinating in and of itself, but anyway take a listen to this live recording. He introduces the song as "a song I wrote for a commercial a long time ago..." and proceeds with quite an emotional, somewhat beautiful rendition of the Gillette theme.

And history repeats itself. Did Jake Holmes pull a Jimmy Page on John Parr or is it the other way around? I can find two sources (that aren't wikipedia) that side with Jake Holmes in this matter. On the other hand, we hear it straight from John Parr himself that he wrote it. There are also some fairly adamant YouTube commenters who claim Jake Holmes only sang on the Gillette ad while it was based on John Parr's original song... In John Parr's defense, who would falsely claim to have written the Gillette theme? Perhaps the two of them co-wrote it together, but Google turns up nothing with both their names. Another bit of synchronicity: John Parr's 1985 self-titled debut has a song called Heartbreaker, whose lyrics more closely match Pat Benatar's Heartbreaker than Zeppelin's, though it's a cover of neither. And ironically there's another track called Somebody Stole My Thunder (not a cover of of the Georgie Fame song).

So a real cover riddle indeed. I guess if artists didn't borrow (or steal) from each other throughout history, music might have devolved into some sort of experimental music hell. Anyway, didn't someone wise once say "Take a sad song and make it better"?

The Yardbirds - Dazed and Confused [originally by Jake Holmes, arranged by The Yardbirds]
From a March 1968 performance on French TV, this is a really intriguing version since it closely mirrors the Led Zeppelin version, pre-Robert Plant on vocals and singing Jake Holmes' lyrics.

John Parr - The Best a Man Can Get (Live) [originally by ?]

Inspection 12 - St. Elmo's Fire [originally by John Parr/David Foster]

The Link Quartet - Somebody Stole My Thunder [originally by Georgie Fame]

Additional reading: