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Fischer-Z - Wacken Open Air 2018 03.jpg
Fischer-Z at Wacken Open Air 2018
Background information
Origin Uxbridge, England
Genres Rock, new wave
Years active 1976–
Past members John Watts
Steve Skolnik
David Graham
Steve Liddle

Fischer-Z is a British rock band formed in 1976 by John Watts and Steve Skolnik at Brunel University, Uxbridge. The original line-up consisted of Watts (vocals, guitar), Skolnik (keyboards), David Graham (bass) and Steve Liddle (drums).

The band's name is pronounced "fɪʃə zɛd" (fisher zed), a pun on "fish's head" with the "h" dropped, as is usual in many British regional accents. The pun also relies on leaving the "r" unpronounced as in common British non-rhotic accents.


Fischer-Z's first hit single was "The Worker" from the album Word Salad. In an interview in Record Mirror in 1981, Watts put the single's success down to the remix of the song from the album version, which put the emphasis on the keyboards rather than his guitar.

Skolnik departed after their second album Going Deaf for a Living, leaving Watts to take over keyboards.[1]

Watts' lyrics draw heavily on his experiences of studying clinical psychology and as a mental health care worker. Several songs on their third album Red Skies Over Paradise in 1981, such as "Berlin" and "Red Skies Over Paradise" were about the Cold War and the song "Cruise Missiles" was about the nuclear arms race and the mutual threat of the superpowers with nuclear war. Fischer-Z were more popular in mainland Europe than their native UK, especially in Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Portugal (two top 10 hits and a No. 3 album). Fischer-Z were also successful in Australia, where they achieved two Top 20 hits with "So Long" from the album Going Deaf for a Living and "The Perfect Day" from Reveal.[2]

After the album Red Skies over Paradise Watts dissolved the band in mid-1981, deciding his art could not evolve within a band context.

Watts released his solo debut One More Twist in 1982 followed by The Iceberg Model in 1983. Also during 1982 David Graham teamed up with guitarist Mike Francis in The Yes Men only to part company early the following year. In 1984 John Watts formed the band The Cry with Mike Been, David Graham and Theo Thunder, this album placed an emphasis on crucial groove elements and was produced by Jimmy Douglass. In 1988 Watts released the Reveal album under the name Fischer-Z, a new band with the same name in which he was the only original member, although Skolnik made a minor contribution to one track. The second album in this Fischer-Z period, Fish's Head included the "Say No" single with a politically charged black & white Nick Brandt music video which was banned by their record label on the grounds of it potentially "endangering the lives of their employees worldwide".[citation needed] In this period Watts performed to 167,000 people at a Peace Festival in East Berlin along with James Brown and he was interviewed about Thatcherism on German national news.

There was a 2004 reunion of the original band for one short show which featured on the Garden Party DVD which was released along with the Fischer-Z Highlights 1979-2004 25th anniversary compilation album.

24 April 2014 John Watts Fischer-Z started a four-day tour of the Netherlands in De Vorstin in Hilversum, which continued into Germany.[3] This tour was the lead-up to the release of the album This Is My Universe.[4]



Year Single Peak positions Album

1978 "Wax Dolls" Word Salad
1979 "Remember Russia"
"The Worker" 53 23 26
"First Impressions (Pretty Paracetamol)" Word Salad (US edition)
1980 "So Long" 72 15 14 12 Going Deaf for a Living
"Crazy Girl"
"Room Service" 41
1981 "Marliese" 21 37 5 Red Skies over Paradise
"'Cutters Lullaby"
"El Escritor" (Spanish release of 'The Writer')
1988 "The Perfect Day" 91 12 Reveal
"Big Drum"
1989 "Say No" 168 Fish's Head
1990 "Sausages and Tears" (credited to John Watts and Fischer Z) single only
1992 "Destination Paradise" Destination Paradise
"Will You Be There?" 95
1993 "Tightrope"
"The Peaches & Cream" Kamikaze Shirt
"Human Beings"
1994 "Marlon"
"You Never Cross the Same River Twice (Turn Back the Clock)" Stream
1995 "Need Protection"
"Red Skies over Paradise" (1995 recording) The Best
2002 "Jukebox" Ether
"Delight" Ether (German pressing only)
2004 "Back to Berlin" Highlights 1979 to 2004
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.



John Watts discography (includes work outside Fischer-Z):

  • One More Twist (1982)
  • The Iceberg Model (1983)
  • Quick Quick Slow (1984) (Released under the moniker: "The Cry")
  • Thirteen Stories High (1997) (Released under the moniker: "J.M. Watts")
  • Bigbeatpoetry (1999) (Released under the moniker: "Watts")
  • Spiritual Headcase (2000) (Released under the moniker: "Watts")
  • Ether Music & Film (2002)
  • Real Life Is Good Enough (2005)
  • It Has To Be (2006)
  • Morethanmusic & Films (2009)

Compilation albums[edit]

  • Fischer-Z Going Red For A Salad (1990)
  • The Worker (1997)
  • The Perfect Album (1999)
  • Fischer-Z The Garden Party DVD (2004)
  • Fischer-Z Highlights 1979-2004 (2004)


  1. ^ Larkin, Colin (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Seventies Music. London: Virgin Books. p. 155. ISBN 0-7535-0154-6.
  2. ^ a b c d e Australian chart peaks:
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b "Official Charts > Fischer-Z". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 2016-09-02.
  6. ^ "Ultratop Vlaanderen > Zoeken naar: Fischer-Z" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 2016-09-02.
  7. ^ a b c d e f German chart peaks:
  8. ^ " > Zoeken naar: Fischer-Z" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  9. ^ a b c " > Zoeken naar: Fischer-Z (album)" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 2016-09-02.

External links[edit]