February 14, 2013 – Kevin Peek (Sky) was born Dec 21, 1946 in Adelaide, Australia. He initially played classical percussion in the Adelaide Conservatorium of Music, before teaching himself the guitar.
In 1967 he formed a psychedelic pop, progressive rock group, James Taylor Move, before moving to London. There, he played in various jazz groups around Soho and did session work for Lulu, Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey, amongst others, before becoming part of Cliff Richard’s backing band in the 1970s.
In life, internationally-revered guitarist Kevin Peek was a difficult man to put in a box. With rafts of financial impropriety hanging over the larger-than-life character over the past two decades, at one time landing him in jail, Peek also became a difficult man to track down.
In death, the enigmatic former guitarist for the progressive 70s British rock group Sky, remains as elusive as ever.
After his passing, tributes had started to filter through social media as whispers of the beloved Australian musician’s demise spread through Perth’s tight-knit recording studio community.
It was like working for Benny Hill.
“Kevin was always a very mysterious character,” said Soundbyte Studios director Julian Douglas-Smith who worked as a sound engineer for Peek from the late 80s to the early 90s. Adelaide-born Peek had returned to Australia after a successful career on the British rock scene and taken up part ownership over the West Perth studio.
His stories were littered with names like Elton John, Keith Richards, Tom Jones and Cliff Richard.
Any situation could be reduced to a witty one-liner when Peek was around.
“It was like working for Benny Hill,” Douglas-Smith said. “It was just bizarre.
“You could never have a serious conversation with him – he was always laughing.”
It was the 80s and Peek was a legitimate international rock star, people would have done anything to be close to him.
“He was larger than life,” Douglas-Smith said. “He was a true eccentric and an incredibly talented musician.”
“I think a lot of people were enamored by him and taken in by the fact that he was a rock star.
He wrote the theme music for the internationally-broadcast “Singapore Girl” television advertisements for Singapore Airlines. In 1979, he joined Sky and played on seven studio albums with the band, before departing in 1985
“Even by the late 80s Sky was still a very well-known band and I think a lot of people jumped on that bandwagon because they wanted to be close to Kevin.”
However, by 1994 Peek had landed himself in jail, serving three years for an elaborate factoring fraud scheme, run out of that same studio.
In 1967 Peek formed a Psychedelic pop, progressive rock group, James Taylor Move but left by May 1968, moving to London. He returned to Adelaide, Australia, to join a newly formed rock band Quatro which, despite a contract from England’s Decca Records, proved artistically unsuccessful. For a time, following their move to London, he and his fellow Adelaide-born bandmates—guitarist Terry Britten, bassist Alan Tarney, and drummer Trevor Spencer—made their livings as session musicians together, playing with everyone from the New Seekers and Mary Hopkin (Earth Song, Ocean Song) to Cliff Richard, whose regular backing band they became on stage and on record during the 1970s. Peek also worked with Manfred Mann, Lulu, Tom Jones, Jeff Wayne (War of the Worlds), and Shirley Bassey, among others. He wrote the music for the internationally broadcast “Singapore Girl” television advertisements for Singapore Airlines.
In 1979, he joined the classical/progressive rock quintet Sky. In association with classical guitarist John Williams, keyboardist Francis Monkman, bassist Herbie Flowers, and drummer Tristan Fry, Peek played on seven studio albums with the band, before departing in 1985. Peek recorded three albums—Guitar Junction, Awakening, and Life & Other Games— but achieved greater prominence through his work with Sky and his session work with Olivia Newton-John, Kiki Dee, Sally Oldfield, the Alan Parsons Project, and the London Symphony Orchestra (in association with Francis Monkman on their Symphonic Rock: British Invasion releases). He also played on various soundtracks, including Monkman’s music for The Long Good Friday.
Following a failed business venture and bankruptcy, in 2010 he was prosecuted in Perth, Western Australia on two counts of making a false statement to deceive or defraud. A full trial was originally scheduled for 2011, later adjourned until 2012 and ultimately never took place.
Peek died of melanoma in a Perth hospice on 11 February 2013, aged 66 years.
He was again up on fraud charges at the time of his death, more than 200 of them, regarding his relationship with an import-export business. Prosecutors were poised to argue the business had been a classic multi-million dollar ponzi scheme.
Peek had vehemently denied the charges and was bracing to go to trial later this year.
“It’s been an absolute disaster for everybody, for all of us,” Peek said outside court in 2011.
“I’m left with nothing out of it as well; it’s just a very strange sort of set of circumstances.”