Shona Laing hasn’t enjoyed the career continuum of a Finn or a Dobbyn, but she’s no less important for that. First appearing on our TV screens as a 17-year-old hippy girl singing her unforgettable song “1905”, she was runner-up in the New Faces talent quest in 1972, after which she was promptly signed to the Phonogram label. That song and her affecting plea, “Show Your Love”, were both Top 10 hits in 1973, and lead to two albums for the label, Whispering Afraid (1973) and Shooting Stars Are Only Seen At Night (1974).
Although they sound naïve in the cynical 21st century, there’s no doubting the haunting quality of her voice, or the astonishing songwriting talent, but despite 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, her career stalled. Her answer was to move to England, where she recorded a third album that remains unreleased even now. In 1980, she finally got the chance at another album, Tied To The Tracks, but release of the album suffered interminable delays, and she was lured to join Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, whose lead singer was another Kiwi, Chris Thompson.
The second phase of Laing’s career got underway back in her homeland: she returned for a holiday in 1983, stayed, and was offered an album deal by the emergent indie label Pagan. Genre (1985) created renewed interest in a now very grown-up, 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 number 2 hit in NZ. She worked productively with Sony NZ throughout the 1990s, but these days keeps things low-key, with an occasional independent release and a live date here and there.