In 1972, Chris Bourne, a TV producer and a friend, was producing a talent show called New Faces and phoned me, all excited. “John, we have a young schoolgirl we have just auditioned and I think she is great; you have to come and have a look”. I raced down to the TV studios where Chris played me Shona Laing’s audition, a song called “We’re Gonna Change the World”.
This was a folky protest song, written by Shona and on hearing the song and Shona's performance, my internal music antenna was sending me strong signals. In my view Chris was right to be so excited about this young and talented artist.
I phoned Shona, introduced myself and told her I was interested in offering her a recording contract: I followed this up with a formal letter.
Some time later, the shy school girl arrived at my office, guitar in hand. After a general “get to know each other” discussion in my office, we moved to our record library/studio where I had a Revox tape recorder. I had Shona perform what she liked from her own compositions and I was stunned by the beautiful and meaningful songs sung with heart and feeling.
After a dozen or so songs Shona fell silent. I said, “Have you anymore?” “No” she replied; then after a long pause said “I have one more, but you would hate it.” “Sing it anyway,” I said.
Shona launched into singing "1905".
WOW! What a song.
When she finished I told her that in my view that was her best song and if we agreed a record contract I would want that to be the single. We agreed a recording and songwriting contract.
Shona went on to reach the final of New Faces singing “We’re Gonna Change the World” (I believe it was this and not "1905" as all bios of Shona I have read say, but I may be wrong.)
Realising that Shona was a passionate artist who saw me, as a “suit”, I had to find a producer who could make her feel comfortable. I decided Dale Wrightson was the right person, given his rare combination of being a fine musician, having a commercial savvy and already a successful advertising producer.
Dale and Shona hit it off immediately and went off together to work on the album. It was a beauty, titled “Whispering Afraid”. It sold well and spawned two top ten singles, “1905” and “Show your love”. We spared no expense on the cover art and Dale hired top photographer Sal Criscillo to do the pictures.
That year Shona deservedly won two RATA awards, “Best New Artist” and “Recording Artist of The Year”.
Shona and Dale at HMV Studio Wellington
From Yamaha Tokyo I received an invite to enter one of our artists in The Tokyo Song Festival and I decided to send Shona. In discussion with her we came up with the idea of combining two of her songs into a concept work and this became “Masquerade”, her Tokyo entry. Shona won the major prize.
Below, Shona Laing (holding her awards) and John McCready at the 1973 RATA Awards
Demo of Whispering Afraid recorded as part of process in selecting songs for Shona's first LP