Warumpi Band to release first ever collection of recordings, ‘Papunya Sessions 1982’

The set was recorded on two-track cassette in the living room of a local teacher

Love Police Records & Tapes have announced the imminent release of ‘Warumpi Rock: Papunya Sessions 1982’, an unabridged collection of the earliest known recordings by Indigenous country-rockers Warumpi Band.

As its title implies, the set was recorded live during a jam session in 1982 – two years after their formation, and a year before they’d minted their breakout single, ‘Jailanguru Pakarnu’ – in the outback settlement of Papunya, roughly 240 kilometres north-west of Alice Springs (Mparntwe), where the band had first cut their teeth playing rock ’n’ roll covers.

The set was recorded on two-track cassette in the living room of a local teacher, with the band performing one original track, the instrumental ‘Warumpi Rock’, and a total of 17 covers. Named for the sole original, ‘Warumpi Rock: Papunya Sessions 1982’ is set for release on November 19, available for pre-order digitally and on CD, vinyl and cassette.

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To commemorate the announcement, Love Police shared the recording of Warumpi Band performing ‘Already Gone’, a cover of the classic Eagles track that appeared on their 1974 album ‘On The Border’. Have a listen to it below:

A handful of tracks from the Papunya ’82 session were released in various forms throughout the years, first on the initial CAAMA pressing of the ‘Jailanguru Pakarnu’ cassette, and in 2015 on the compilation ‘Warumpi Band 4 Ever’. This new release, however, will mark the first time that the entire session has been presented in full.

Expounding on the story behind the session, founding guitarist Neil Murray shared the following statement:

“The tape was recorded in a standard NT education department teacher’s house in Papunya where I was living in 1982.

“A friend of mine – also known to the fellas at Papunya as he used to work there – is Phillip Batty. Phillip along with John Macumba had started CAAMA in Alice Springs. Phillip came out to Papunya with a 2 track, Revox reel to reel recorder. We set up our gear in the living room of the house and played what we knew, and Phillip worked from a mixer into the tape machine. We had cheap, basic gear – Japanese copy guitars, a couple of amps and drum kit.

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“We had played shows before this recording. But it was in our early period where we had few originals developed. Although, I do recall writing ‘Jailanguru Pakarnu’ with Sammy during a break in this recording session. The shed we are photographed against is the Papunya Town Hall and that’s where we practiced and held local concerts.

“The only live music heard in Papunya were travelling country western shows like Buddy Williams, Slim Dusty, Brian Young, Rick and Thel. Also, a three-piece group named Big Daddy from Mildura came through, and the occasional community band. Everyone was playing covers.

“Country music was the primary influence but through films like Blackboard Jungle and others, people knew of Chuck Berry and Little Richard and of course the Beatles and Stones. “Get Back, Get Back to where you once belonged” was a popular sung refrain among the kids. Reggae would become a massive influence, but it had yet to arrive.

“AC/DC, JJ Cale, Status Quo, the Angels and later The Police were heard on cassette players that young people carried around. Sammy had learnt guitar licks from cassettes – i.e., Shadows, Barry Thornton, Chuck Berry etc. No radio broadcasts reached Papunya at that time. But we had outdoor film nights 2 or 3 times a week and the other nights we’d play concerts.

“As well as rock’n’roll, George didn’t mind singing the odd ballad – ie Bee Gee’s ‘Massachusetts’ – perhaps influenced by the music tastes of Elcho Island’s Soft Sands band from his home at Galiwinku.

“In essence, this early recording is the sound of us becoming a band.”

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