Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Captain Foam—
No Reason/Will There Ever Be A Time?


Released 1972 on Bold
The Seth Man, December 2018ce
Captain Foam. What a name!
And what a sound!

Released on June 7, 1972, “No Reason” was the only record by this Canton, Ohio power trio. Led by guitarist Ritchie Bertram and his wall of Traynor amplifiers with the fraternal rhythm section of Vince McFadden (drums) and Mike McFadden (bass), “No Reason” is a bombastic rallying cry of super-compressed lead distortion’d guitar and vocals jammed into a 2:50 single while the rhythm section hangs on for dear life in the back of the mix. Spending the majority of the time squallin’ in the red while taking a couple of breathers during two dramatic breakdowns into near-silence just before re-exploding once more, “No Reason” is a bludgeoning wall of quadruple-tracked guitars crashing against a shoreline of silence at high tide. The vocals and guitar are pressing up against the studio glass while threatening to cause as many cracks as much as leakage from the guitar amplifiers threaten to bleed and discharge into the bass and drum tracks. “NOOOOOOOOO...REEEEEEE-SUN!!!” Bertram’s over-recorded voice continually megaphones over the insistent waves of aggro-fuzz distorto guitar, reined in by gravity alone while wedged into the front of the mix alongside the vocals -- only they’re both trying to fit through the same sonic doorway at once and wind up stuck together until Bertram brings it all the way down into simmering near-silence. He vocally and wordlessly apes the guitar melody ever so slightly, while it’s Echoplexed so wildly, until breaking the silence and letting loose with another monstrous guitar barrage even louder than before. At this point, “No Reason” brings to mind only Sonic’s Rendezvous Band at their most extreme, Tac Poum Systeme’s “Asmodaï” in terms of relentless sonic barrage, or even “Magic Potion” by The Open Mind. Or The MC5 playing “I Can See For Miles” at the Grande in 1969. Yeah: THAT degree of brilliance, resilience, and knife-edged assault that bounds forth towards a sonic terminus vanishing point swallowed by forward propulsion as it stretches towards the horizon. No wonder Nick Boldi, Captain Foam’s producer and manager, was quoted that the band produced “three-dimensional rock.” Oh, yeah.

The Captain Foam single was released by Boldi’s own independent Bold Records label, a Massillon, Ohio imprint known for small pressings of local talent since the late sixties. Boldi also organised the recording session at Peppermint Productions Recording Studio in Youngstown, Ohio where several other songs were recorded for an album scheduled for release in the fall of 1972. Unfortunately, they never were and furthermore: Bertram would never release anything ever again. All that is left are recollections from those who witnessed and remember Bertram’s previous rave-ups either at various local teen clubs, theaters, or YMCAs. Whether it was with his first band, Lord Ritchie & the Mariners (1965-66), Captain Foam & The Doctor (1967-69), his first power trio, Doctor Feel Good (1969) or Captain Foam, Ritchie Bertram carved a niche locally as the coolest longhaired showstopper ever. With a talent as rare as his, it’s hard not to ruminate on what could’ve been. Makes me wanna tug at my dual sidelocks simultaneously, if I only had a pair just like Bertram did in the early seventies.

As one would imagine, the B-side is far more sedate an affair but then again, most everything is in comparison with that Detroitian proto-metal attack on the other side. “Will There Ever Be A Time?” is a strident acoustic protest song, whose distinguishing feature is perhaps the earliest mention of My Lai by name on a record. Little wonder, seeing as Bertram attended Kent State University right around that fateful day in May of 1970 when members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire on unarmed college students protesting the Vietnam War.

As deadly rare as it is kick ass, “No Reason” recently surfaced on the Riding Easy “Brown Acid: The Fifth Trip” compilation.