When I showed up at the college radio station in that fateful fall of 1988, I had a little catalog in my head of songs that I needed to find. I have been combing Rolling Stone for a couple years by then, fascinated by all these elusive artists that popped up in the review section or other humble corner of the publication. There was no way one of my local radio stations was going to play a performer like Shona Laing or a song like “(Glad I’m) Not a Kennedy,” but that didn’t stop it for lodging in my brain as something I needed to find if I ever had the chance. Of course, it’s adamant distance from my frame of reference of made me that much more anxious to get it into my ears.
“(Glad I’m) Not a Kennedy” was a particular fascination for me, in part because the weirdly provocative take on the Massachusetts political family that had such a hold on the culture, that the regal wonder of Camelot was the only adequate metaphor. The title alone signaled that Laing saw more tarnish than silver in their story. I have to admit, my interest in the song was also propped up by the slight odd deployment of the parentheses in the song title. I really do enjoy oddly deployed parentheses.
The campus radio station, stronghold of so many treasures, did not disappoint. The Shona Laing album, first released a year before I got there, waited for me, ever so patiently, in the station’s C-Stacks, the area of the library reserved for the most obscure artists. Beginning with archly elegant strings before giving way to an easygoing electronic beat, Laing’s song was drastically different from almost everything I listened to before getting to 90FM. Its gently edgy, disco-dappled, singer-songwriter charm won me over immediately. I went to the station hoping and expecting it would open up my horizons. That I found this song, which I would have likely greeted with a knee-jerk dismissal in the days before I could claim a piece of the airwaves, so appealing told me that the horizons were indeed going to open wide.
Listen or download –> Shona Laing, “(Glad I’m) Not a Kennedy”
(Disclaimer: Usually there’s loads of information in this disclaimer section, often presented with overly formal language or eye-rolling snark. I barely had it in me to tap out those words above. Let’s leave it at this: I believe this album to be out of print, and I’ll gladly take the song down if I’m asked to do so.)