1972: 1905 from the album Whispering Afraid
Music was part of Laing's life from the beginning.
"My parents bought me a ukulele when I was 6," she remembers, "because I was making a lot of noise and they wanted to give me some direction." After wearing out four ukuleles, she was given her first guitar at age 10 and from then on would spend hours playing and writing music in her bedroom, her love of folk artists like Carole King and Joni Mitchell competing with her brother's taste in records.
"I was tormented by Led Zeppelin through the bedroom wall, but now, when I think about it, the stuff I couldn't stand at 9 and 10 actually was very important to me: Cream, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix."
She'd been writing songs for several years and had even phoned EMI to ask for a meeting (which was not granted) when she decided to audition for New Faces. Producer Chris Bourne was shown the audition tapes, along with John McCready, then general manager of Phonogram. When McCready saw Laing, he offered her a deal - she was signed before the show even went to air.
"After I was signed, we were going through all my songs to see which ones would go on the album. I was in there for about three hours and I finished by saying to them, 'Well, there's one more but it's pretty new and it's kind of personal, and I don't know if it's any good,' and launched into 1905."
The song - which went to No4 on the NZ singles chart and stayed there for 14 weeks - was inspired by a crush on actor Henry Fonda that was "worrying" her.
"I have been asked why was I writing about Henry Fonda, and I don't really know," she laughs now. "I guess by the time I got to 13 or 14, I was staying home by myself on Friday night (you know, Mum and Dad might be at a cocktail party and my older brother and sister would be out) and they used to have movies on TV and I became a bit of a movie addict.
"I remember I thought 12 Angry Men was fantastic, and there were another couple of Westerns of his, which I remember seeing at the movies. But he was a gorgeous man. And radical as hell, too. I've read his book but I also read Jane Fonda's book, back in the 70s, shortly after she'd been to Hanoi, and her book was incredible, full of political philosophy, so I was a big fan of hers, too. They were an incredible family."
That political consciousness and interest in world issues is something that stayed with Laing throughout her career. Even on her second album, Shooting Stars are Only Seen at Night, recorded in Sydney in 1974, there was a sense of righteousness; and after two trips to the Tokyo World Popular Song Festival, by 1975 she was ready to leave New Zealand and see the world for herself. So she moved to London.
Where to find Shona's early songs
A 25 track CD of Laing's early work has also been released this year. It brings together the 10 original tracks from her debut album Whispering Afraid from 1972, like 1905 and Masquerade, along with the 12 original tracks from her follow-up, Shooting Stars Are Only Seen At Night, together on CD for the first time.
It also adds three non-album B-sides - Some One To Be With, Don't You Think It's Time, and a favourite title I Love My Feet, which have been previously unavailable.
Whispering Afraid was recorded at EMI studios in Wellington, and the experience, as Laing explains in the liner notes, got her hooked. Recording Shooting Stars in Sydney was even more of a learning curve - staying alone in a hotel for six weeks, and working intensively on the album every day.
"It didn't appeal across the generations as had Whispering Afraid, but I was on my musical journey and there was no turning back."
Note: Some of the tracks were featured on the album Essential Collection, but were re-recordings done in the 1990s, whereas this collection uses the original versions.