documenting the optical sounds of '60s pop, Acid Punk & Psychedelia

Zone 26: We Chose To Walk – Recollections with Marco Ruggio

ZONE 26 – ’When The World Turns Cold’/’We Chose To Walk’ (World Pacific 77896) 1968

I haven’t been able to find out any information about the curiously named group Zone 26. I’m sure someone will have some facts etc so if you do, please get in touch. And what about that name….Zone 26….what does that mean?

They’re probably a Californian outfit, more than likely from Los Angeles or the surrounding area. I first heard both sides of the 45 on a U-Spaces compilation called ’California Love-In’ and was so impressed by the psychedelic sounds that I spent several years tracking down a copy. It’s probably one of the most difficult releases to locate on the World Pacific label.

’When The World Turns Cold’ is dominated by a Doors like organ sound and violin opening instrumental backing that lasts for well over a minute before singer (Brian Monsour?) bursts through the strangeness.

The flip ’We Chose To Walk’ is quite a bizarre song and comes over like a weird mix of Doors and Syd’s Pink Floyd with hard to fathom lyrics. It seems that Zone 26 could have been mixing up their medicine.

”Don’t sell your soul
For you will know.
You’ve lost your way,
And now you’ll have to pay”.

Since I wrote this entry about Zone 26 I have been contacted by their drummer Marco Ruggio. I asked Marco to fill me in with some of the important details about his 60s band and he kindly obliged.

The name of the band was ZONE 26. It was named after a postal code in Los Angeles, California. The area was Echo Park. Most of us came from this area hence the name.

Zone 26 was made up of the following people & instruments:

Vocal Ron Castro – alive and teaching theatre
Organ / Bass Piano Brian Monsour – dead
Guitar Chris Merlin – alive and in TV production
Electric Violin Greg Bloch (one of the first uses of electric violins in rock ever) – dead
Drums Marco Ruggio – alive / film maker director / editor

We formed in Los Angeles in 1965 and were mainly a local band with a very local, strange following and played all over Los Angeles with just about everyone: Bands like The Doors, The Buffalo Springfield, The Staple Singers, Taj Mahal, The Iron Butterfly, The Yellow Payges, and so many others.

Vito, the famous artist used to bring his insane entourage including Nico (famous model) to hear us when we’d play places on the Sunset Strip. We played at all the local ”love-ins” with PG&E, The Blues Project, also at the Whisky A Go Go, The Troubadour, Gazzari’s, The Galaxy, The Cheetah (no longer exists), The Hullabaloo. 

We were signed to World Pacific. Our producer was Richard Boch. He produced acts like Ravi Shankar. The 45 was recorded at the 3rd Street Studio owned and operated by Liberty Records, which was the parent of World Pacific. It was our nasty and begrudged attempt at ”something commercial.” This is why the lyrics talked about ”walking” rather than ”taking the bus.” We were pretty much an uncompromising stoner band. 

Our music, which you can’t tell from this recording had huge classical influences. Greg Bloch, our violinist, was asked to play with many prominent  symphony orchestras. Both his father and sister, Calman & Michelle, shared the first chair clarinet position at the LA Philharmonic.  

We had difficulty coming up with ”top forty” material. We were biz-stupid, arrogant, street philosophers, wild and completely impoverished. It was LSD and exploring the unknown all the way for us.

We were a band honestly interested in consciousness expansion and made an attempt at conveying it in our music. But as usual, without sanity and discipline the flame gets too hot and you burn. We got very little local airplay.

other interesting facts:
We DID record an entire album but it was deemed very interesting but uncommercial. I have no idea where the material is. 

No photos were kept.

Band broke up due to creative differences and drug abuse.

Greg Bloch went on to It’s a Beautiful Day, PFM and studio work until he died.

I went on to forming projects with RSO  / Clean Records: Tongue, The Stash Wagner Band (writer of ”Don’t Borgart That Joint”) and various other failed musical projects. Got into fusion and ruined my wrist.

We were part of very interesting times. We were never really ”famous” but followed by many. We were of the street.


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