29 Mar 2017
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Shona Laing

Bio

Shona Laing was born in New Zealand in 1955 and spent much of her early teens writing and practicising songs at home. As early as 1972 Shona shot to overnight stardom by singing her way into the New Faces finals with a song called '1905'.

Even as a 17 year old schoolgirl, Shona composed all her own material. After her success on New Faces, Phonogram signed her up to a recording deal. They released her first single '1905'/'There Are No Words (To Describe)' on the Vertigo label. '1905' peaked at #4 on the National Charts in February 1973. A second single, 'Show Your Love'/'Don't Expect Me To Be Your Friend' also peaked at #4 in September 1973.

Later that year, Shona entered the Studio One television competition with a song called 'If Only', but this time failed to place. However, any disappointment was soon forgotten when she picked up two RATA Awards, namely 'Best New Artist' and 'Recording Artist Of The Year'. Shona also took top prize at the Tokyo Song Festival with a song called 'Masquerade', and was awarded two gold discs for '1905' and 'Show Your Love'.

'Masquerade'/'If You Could Read My Mind' was released as a single in 1973 and reached #11 in November on the National Charts. Her forth single 'Someone To Be With'/'Lady Dipton' failed to chart. Late in 1973 Shona released her first album 'Whispering Afraid', which sold very well.

A third RATA Award for Top Female Vocal Performer came her way in 1974 and she also released a second album, the Australian produced 'Shooting Stars Are Only Seen At Night'.

At a second visit to the Tokyo Song Festival, she met Roberto Danova, an Italian producer based in London. He urged her to go to London to further her career. So in 1975, Shona flew to London, and was to stay in that part of the world for the next seven years. While in England, Shona performed regularly at folk clubs and restaurants. EMI were interested in her and through them, she recorded some songs. During 1980 and 1981 she released a total of four singles on EMI and most of these songs found their way on to an album released in 1982 called 'Tied To The Tracks'.

Shona's last two years in Europe were spent as a member of Manfred Mann's Earth Band, working on the album, 'Somewhere In Afrika'. Shona had recorded a song called 'Don't Tell Me' which had received a lot of airplay in Britain on Radio 1. Manfred heard it and got in touch with her because he wanted to record the song. As a result she ended up singing for him and during that time learned a lot about synthesizers, sequencers and similar equipment.

Shona featured prominently on the tracks, 'Eyes of Nostradamus', 'Third World Service and Demolition Man' on the Afrika album and on the single 'I Who Have Nothing'. Shona left the band before the corresponding tour. In an interview with Manfred a few years ago, he described Shona as a great singer with a great voice.

Shona returned to New Zealand and in 1985 signed to the independent Pagan label, with whom she released the album 'Genre'. The first single it was "One In A Million" backed with an instrumental version. Unfortunately the New Zealand public had forgotten who Shona was and the single and album were ignored.

The second single from the album was 'Not A Kennedy'/'Haunted' and was also ignored by every major radio station, even when 'Kennedy' won a 1986 Pater Award in Sydney for 'New Zealand Song Of The Year' and was released in Germany by RCA Records. The real breakthrough came when Australian music publisher Chris Gilbey heard the song and brought it to the attention of Virgin Records. He arranged for the song to be remixed by English producer Peter Wilson and this gave the song a new edge. It was included on Shona's next album 'South' released in 1987 and the song suddenly took off to international success, reaching #2 on the National New Zealand charts.

'South' was a very successful album, selling well all over the world. Further singles were released from it. 'Drive Baby Drive'/'Somebody Found You', and also with 'The Bishop' on the reverse, 'Soviet Snow'/'South' and 'Caught'/'Highway Warriors'.

In 1991 a new album of greatest hits was released, called '1905-1990 Retrospective'.

Shona still continues to release new material and has released the following albums, 'New On Earth' in 1992 and 'Shona' in 1994.

Since recording 'Shona', she has spent her musical energies doing shows, playing live acoustic versions of many of the songs she recorded over the years. These songs have now been recorded and released on a new album called 'Roadworks'.

In 2001, APRA celebrated its 75th Anniversary and invited guests to vote for the Top Ten New Zealand Songs of all time. 'Glad I'm Not A Kennedy' was voted into 24th place.

Finally, in late 2002, a new compilation 'The Essential Shona Laing' was released, and is a recommended purchase for anybody who wants a thorough cross-section of this artist's superb body of work.

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