First appearing on our TV screens as a 17-year-old hippy girl singing her unforgettable ‘1905’, Shona Laing was runner-up in the New Faces talent quest in 1972, after which she was promptly signed to the Phonogram label. That song, along with her affecting ‘Show Your Love’ were both Top 10 hits in 1973, and led to two albums for the label: Whispering Afraid (1973) and Shooting Stars Are Only Seen At Night (1974).
There’s no doubting the haunting quality of Laing’s voice, or her astonishing songwriting talent. Having won Best Newcomer, Best Female Vocalist and Performer Of The Year at the 1973 NZ Music Awards and Best Female Vocalist at the 1974 NZ Music Awards, she relocated to the UK, where she recorded a third album that remains unreleased. In 1980, she released Tied To The Tracks and joined Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, whose lead singer was another New Zealander, Chris Thompson.
The second phase of Laing’s career got underway back in Aotearoa: she returned for a holiday in 1983, stayed, and was offered an album deal by emergent indie label Pagan. Genre (1985) created renewed interest in a now established, spiky-haired Laing. A retooled, sample-heavy, electronic sound dominated South (1987) and the track ‘(Glad I’m) Not A Kennedy’ was a sensation, resulting in UK remixes, international tours and a #2 hit in NZ.
Laing worked actively with Sony NZ through the 90s, but these days keeps things low-key – with an occasional independent release and live date here and there.