Cook da Books

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Cook da Books
Cook Da Books.jpg
Cook Da Books backstage at DAR Constitution Hall, Washington D.C. 1985
Background information
Also known as Big in France
Origin Fazakerley Liverpool, England
Genres New wave, synthpop
Years active 1980–1988
Labels 10, Carrere, Kiteland Records
Associated acts Smaller, The Sums
Members Owen Moran
Peter Deary
Tony Prescott
John Legget

Cook da Books (also known as Cook the Books, and Da Books) were a British new wave band from Liverpool, England popular in the 1980s. Their success began with politically charged compositions[1] and peaked with pop friendly film soundtrack[2] and commercial releases. The band had a self-professed reputation for being fiercely independent but enjoyed major label attention and numerous high-profile global performances.


Cook da Books formed in 1980 in Fazakerley, Liverpool composed of former members of pub/cabaret circuit groups The Dogems and Brooklyn, two bands not connected with the city's punk and new wave scene, but competent musicians with close harmonies gained from the Hilda Fallon Roadshow days, similar to other local bands such as Our Kid.[3] The initial line-up was Kevin Kunky Kelly (Guitar/vocals) Peter "Digsy" Deary (vocals, guitar), Owen Moran (bass, vocals), Tony Prescott (keyboards), and John Legget (drums).[4]

They initially gained attention with their acclaimed and politically charged debut single "Piggie in the Middle 8", with provocative lyrics about the Toxteth riots. The band's manager played a demo to well-known reggae producer Dennis Bovell, who had recently produced a number two record with Janet Kay's "Silly Games", upon which he agreed to produce the track at his Studio80 in London.[1] A further deal was reached with Probe Records to release the record in the emerging independent market. This was the first record ever released on the Probe label, which went on to find success with many other artists following this release. Local photographer John Stoddart was enlisted to produce the artwork for the 7" & 12" sleeves. After this first band session, Stoddart went on to photograph many bands, most notably Frankie Goes to Hollywood through their major success.

The single brought them to the attention of musician Vladimir Cosma, who included three tracks by the band on the soundtrack to the French film La Boum 2.[2] The film includes a scene with the band playing "Your Eyes", which reached number one in Europe and Hong Kong, selling over 900,000 copies and earning the band a gold disc.[2] It brought the band international recognition, while remaining relatively unknown in their home country and the United States. There followed further live shows including high-profile supporting tours in the UK and USA with Men at Work, Joan Armatrading and The Undertones, among others. They established a recording and rehearsal space in central Liverpool during the Virgin records deal. However, following the demise of the deal their manager, John Smith sold this on to another Liverpool band, Echo & the Bunnymen.

The band recorded two further sessions (in 1983 and 1984) for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show, and one for Simon Bates.[2][5] They appeared on the BBC TV show Whistle Test in 1985.[6] In 1984, they contributed the demo version of "Piggy In The Middle 8" to Ronnie Flood's Jobs For the Boys compilation album, released to highlight the lack of employment available in Thatcher's Britain, particularly Liverpool.[7]

Though the soundtrack to La Boum 2 was released on Polymer Records, and they were also signed to 10 Records (part of Virgin Records), Cook Da Books remained fiercely independent throughout their career, running their own label, Kiteland Records.[4] According to the band themselves in an interview with Explicit magazine in 1983: "Being independent means that we've got the freedom to choose whatever we want, have whatever product we want marketed when we want".[3]

In 1985 they sang the song "Spartakus", written By Cosma, for the soundtrack of the French sci-fi cartoon TV "Les Mondes Engloutis" ("Spartakus And The Sun Beneath The Sea"). That year they performed a concert with Joan Armatrading at the Gammage Performing Arts Center in Arizona.[8]

After Prescott's departure, the remaining three members became simply "Da Books", and re-emerged a year later with a cover of Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City", released on Probe Plus. They also recorded "The Lookout Is Out" with new lyrics (based on the melody of "Asterix est là" by Plastic Bertrand), the theme song for the 1986 animated film Asterix in Britain.

Singer/guitarist Peter "Digsy" Deary went on to front Smaller, featuring his brother Stephen on drums, which had UK hit singles in 1996 and 1997 with "Wasted" and "Is", and was celebrated in the Oasis song "Digsy's Dinner" from their debut album Definitely Maybe. Oasis's Noel Gallagher was also a guest on Smaller's 1997 album Badly Badly.[4][9] He then fronted The Sums in the 2000s.[10]


The band were compared to Duran Duran, U2, and Squeeze.[11]

We Wouldn't Want to Knock It (2013)[edit]

In 2012, Digsy and Owen Moran (long time friend and former Cook da Books band member) were the subject of a low budget documentary by Liverpool filmmakers Daniel Draper and Frankie Cowley called We Wouldn't Want to Knock It (in reference to a classic Books song). The film, shot in a naturalistic and free form style, explores Digsy's musical career (in Cook da Books, Smaller and now The Sums) and his personal relationship with Moran. The film shuns the conventional visual structure of a music documentary and gives an often humorous insight into the band and the two men at its core.


Chart placings shown are from the UK Indie Chart.[4]


  • 1982: "Piggie in the Middle Eight"/"Turn to Black" (No. 18)
  • 1982: "Rich Men Don't"/"Low Profile"
  • 1983: "Piggie in the Middle Eight"/"I Wouldn't Want to Knock It"
  • 1983: "Your Eyes" (No. 1) (France, Italy, Germany, Hong Kong)
  • 1983: "Low Profile"/"Rich Men Don't" (No. 13)
  • 1983: "I Wouldn't Want To Knock It"/"Up In Smoke"/"In Da Papers" (No. 20)
  • 1984: "Caress Me Like a Flower"/"Say Something Good"
  • 1984: "Golden Age"/"Soho"
  • 1985: "You Hurt Me Deep Inside"/"Piggie in the Middle Eight"/"Low Profile"
  • 1986: "Living for the City"/"All I Want is Everything"/"How Could You Be So Low"/"Giving Up the Acid"/"England May as Well Be Cuba"
  • 1986: "The Lookout Is Out" (theme song for the animated film Asterix in Britain)


  • 1983: Outch
  • 1989: Big Dreams (as Da' Books)

Track list[edit]

  1. "Heart of Fire"
  2. "Rich Men Don't"
  3. "Wouldn't Want to Knock It"
  4. "Sankapou"
  5. "Falling"
  6. "Piggie in the Middle Eight"
  7. "Who Are You to Cry?"
  8. "Soho"
  9. "This Is Not the Time"
  10. "Up in Smoke"
  11. "Say Something Good"

Compilation appearances[edit]

  • "This Is Not the Time" (included on Crackin' Up at the Pyramid compilation) (May 1982)
  • "Get It Together"/"Your Eyes"/"Silver Man" (included on La Boum 2 soundtrack LP) (France:Philips, Germany:Carrere 6.26431)
  • "Piggie in the Middle Eight" (new version) (Jobs for the Boys compilation (Natalie Records) (January 1985)


  1. ^ a b Leonard, Marion & Strachan, Rob (2010) The Beat Goes on: Liverpool, Popular Music and the Changing City, Liverpool University Press, ISBN 978-1-84631-190-1, p. 56
  2. ^ a b c d Marx, David (1985) "The Year of Da Books", Debut, Issue 10, p. 54-55
  3. ^ a b Schwartze, Klaus (1987). The scouse phenomenon: the scrapbook of the new Liverpool rock scene (Book). Vol. 1. England: Druckerei und Verlag Bitsch GmbH. ISBN 978-3-925014-04-8. 
  4. ^ a b c d Lazell, Barry (1997). Indie Hits 1980-1999. Cherry Red Books. ISBN 0-9517206-9-4. 
  5. ^ "Cook Da Books", Keeping It Peel, BBC, retrieved 2011-02-19
  6. ^ "TV", Glasgow Herald, 5 February 1985, retrieved 2011-02-19
  7. ^ Mann, Billy (1985) "An LP That Works", NME, 2 February 1985, p. 15
  8. ^ Box Score Top Grossing Concerts. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 1 June 1985. pp. 48–. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  9. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 1-84195-335-0, p. 978
  10. ^ Wright, Jade (2008) "Digsy and the Sums on the joys of Paperback Writer", Liverpool Echo, 17 January 2008, retrieved 2011-02-19
  11. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff (1985) "Joan Armatrading/Cook Da Books, Radio City Music Hall, New York", Billboard, 11 May 1985, p. 45

External links[edit]