Americana Vinyl Treasures: Ben Vaughn “Ben Vaughn Blows Your Mind”

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Ben Vaughn is a man of many talents. Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, award-winning composer for television and film, and a radio show host. As a record producer he has worked with a long list of artists, including Ween, Alex Chilton, Los Straitjackets, Nancy Sinatra, Mark Olson of the Jayhawks and Charlie Feathers.

If you think you’ve not heard Vaughn’s music, but you have seen the television sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun then it’s likely you have heard his music, as he provides the surf guitar theme music for the series, for which he won a Composer’s Award from BMI in 1996 and 1997; the series also featured much other Vaughn music. Commenting on the challenge of creating TV theme music, Vaughn said “You need to sum up in 30 seconds the musical identity of the show, and create a theme that makes people watch it for eight seasons.” Vaughn went on to provide music for a number of other TV shows, including That ’70s Show and movies.

So what type of music does Vaughn create? Well, it’s not easy to define; words such as quirky, fun, humorous, spring to mind; usually with catchy tunes and clever lyrics, but surf guitar sounds are never far from the surface. Most of Vaughn’s albums are really well produced; the sound quality on ‘Ben Vaughn Blows Your Mind‘ is outstanding. Production here is handled by Vaughn himself while sound engineering is by Glenn Barratt.

There are 12 tracks on the vinyl version of this LP, compared to 15 on the digital version. This means that one of the best songs, ‘Rhythm Guitar‘ is absent from the vinyl version. It’s fair to say that side one is the stronger of the two sides; side two being good but failing to match the consistency of the first side.

First up is ‘Daddy’s Gone for Good‘ which is an up-tempo song with strong hooks and harmonies, however lyrically it paints a different picture. The LP’s sleeve notes state that this song is dedicated to James “Shep” Sheppard, who was a member of Shep and the Limelites, an American doo-wop trio. They are best known for their hit ‘Daddy’s Home‘ which reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1961. It was subsequently covered by a wide range of artists including Frank Zappa, The Carpenters and Cliff Richard. Sheppard was murdered in 1970; he died in his car as a result of injuries sustained in a robbery. ‘Daddy’s Home‘ includes the lines “Your best friend wrote and told me, You had teardrops in your eyes, Daddy’s home, Daddy’s home to stay”, while Vaughn’s ‘Daddy’s Gone for Good‘ includes the lines “Your best friend wrote and told me, That they found him today, Lying alone in his car, At the side of the Highway, Daddy’s gone for good, He’s gone for good”.

Next up is ‘She’s Your Problem Now‘, one of the standout cuts on the album; there’s much humour here as Vaughn addresses his ex’s current beau “You say she left me for you, Well maybe that’s true” then “But I don’t worry, ‘cos she’s your problem now”. Organ-driven ‘Darlene‘ is two minutes and six seconds of pure musical joy. Lyrically it’s a cautionary tale about a girl “Well my Papa told me son and you know he might be right, He said that girl Darlene ain’t no vision, She’s a sight”. It’s very catchy, very rock ‘n’ roll; give it a listen and you might just catch yourself singing along to the chorus and struggling to sit still. ‘Trashpickin” includes the sound of a ’66 Rambler Wagon (a photo of this appears on the rear of the album sleeve), a theme that Vaughn revisits on his 2007 album ‘Rambler ’65‘ in which he turns his car (in this case a 1965 Rambler American) into a recording studio. Side one is completed by ‘Charlene

Highlights of side two include the rocking ‘Tantalize‘ with some intriguing lyrics; “You must have read every page of the book of love, but what you studied after that I want to know nothing of”. ‘El Rambler Dorado‘ is a moody, atmospheric instrumental that wouldn’t sound out of place in the movie Pulp Fiction. Here one can hear Vaughn’s love of ’50s music, which started when he was given a Duane Eddy record at the age of six. ‘This Property is Condemned‘ a break-up song, with lyrics that include “We were one baby and now we’re two, This property is condemned by the blues”.

Rhythm Guitar‘ which as stated earlier, doesn’t make the album’s vinyl version, is written from the perspective of a rhythm guitarist. It’s another short song (one minute 56 seconds) and very tongue in cheek; “If you listen real close you know you might hear me, I’m playing rhythm guitar”. Gang vocals shout out the chord progression then there’s “The lead player’s wailing, Playing lots of notes, I could do that stuff if I wanted but I don’t“. It’s a lot of fun.


Although as a musical treasure, the album is far from a rarity. The vinyl version can be obtained from around £5,with the corresponding CD available for even less.

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