Fischer-Z at Wacken Open Air 2018
|Genres||Rock, new wave|
|Years active||1976– present|
|Past members||Steve Skolnik|
Fischer-Z is a British rock group and main creative project of singer, guitarist and poet John Watts. In 1982 Watts temporarily dissolved Fischer-Z and started a solo career under his own name. John Watts has gone on to release both solo and Fischer-Z projects. The original line-up consisted of Watts (vocals, guitar), Steve Skolnik (keyboards), David Graham (bass) and Steve Liddle (drums).
The band's name is pronounced / / ("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 found success across Europe and sold more than two million albums. Joint recordings were made with Peter Gabriel, Steve Cropper and Dexys Midnight Runners. Fischer-Z performed alongside James Brown in East Berlin and toured with The Police and Dire Straits. They also toured the US and Canada and were on the bill with Bob Marley on his last festival tour of Europe. John Watts has released 20 albums and played around 3,000 concerts so far.
While studying clinical psychology and working in psychiatric clinics, John Watts formed Fischer-Z with Stephen Skolnik in 1977. The first performances took place in English punk clubs and the first Fischer-Z album, Word Salad, was released in 1979 on United Artists Records, in parallel with The Buzzcocks and The Stranglers. The band broke through thanks to John Peel playing their first single ‘Remember Russia’ multiple times and championing the band. Thanks to this, Fischer-Z appeared on The Old Grey Whistle Test and following the European success of their second single "The Worker", they appeared on Top of the Pops in 1979. With his second album, Going Deaf for a Living, Watts cemented Fischer-Z's ability to capture global political themes against the backdrop of ‘quirky’ pop music. The hit single "So Long" was released in 1980 on the newly founded TV channel MTV. 1981 brought the release of Fischer-Z’s third and most commercially successful album Red Skies Over Paradise, which featured the singles, "Marliese" and "Berlin". Due to the success of these albums, Fischer-Z played over 200 shows between 1980 and 1981 across the UK, Europe, the US and Canada. Watts dissolved the original Fischer-Z line up in the summer of 1981, believing that the band had moved too far from their original punk ideals.
Watts then started a solo career and released his first two solo albums, One More Twist (1982) and The Iceberg Model (1983). These albums produced the politically charged single "One Voice" which he performed at the No Nukes Festival in 1982. In 1984, Watts founded a band called The Cry and released the pop/dance album Quick Quick Slow, which was produced by Jimmy Douglass. In 1985, heavily influenced by the political events of the 1980s–especially Margaret Thatcher's dealings with UK unions–Watts released the song "Dark Crowds of Englishmen", which dealt with the miners’ strike of 1984/1985 and the disappearance of humanity politics in Britain.
In 1987, John Watts decided to re-establish Fischer-Z in a different form. In this line up, the band celebrated further success, with hit singles "The Perfect Day" (1988) and "Say No" (1989) from the albums Reveal (1988) and Fish's Head (1989).
In 1991, the next Fischer-Z album Destination Paradise was recorded at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios. The song "Further From Love" and the title song highlight the sufferings of the civilian population during wartime. The next two Fischer Z albums, Kamikaze Shirt (1993) and Stream (1995), continued to combine a political perspective with songs based on Watts' observations and experiences in real life.
1997 and 1999 brought the release of two very different Watts albums: Thirteen Stories High and Bigbeatpoetry. In Thirteen Stories High, Watts looks back at the ups and downs of his life and music career, with emotive pop songs like the single "Brilliant Career". Whereas in Bigbeatpoetry Watts worked with a combination of poetic lyrics and musical beats, signing with Motor Records and working with the German DJ champion, Ingo Werner.
This would produce the single "Walking The Doberman". Watts then release the Spiritual Headcase album in 2000, which was a remix of the Bigbeatpoetry album done by Peter Ely. Watts’ era of multimedia projects began with "Ether" in 2002. For this, he traveled throughout Europe and collected musical contributions of local musicians. Minimal equipment was used for the recordings: just a high-quality microphone and a laptop. The entire project was filmed and released as an album and as a DVD.
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.
In 2005, Watts released Real Life Is Good Enough, a 2-piece guitar and drums album recorded with Sam Walker. After touring that album, Watts found strangers on his travels from 10 different European countries and wrote a song for each of them based on their life stories. Those 10 songs became the It Has To Be album which was released in 2007. The next album by Watts was Morethanmusic, which also contained poems and short stories. It contained the single "Head On", which was inspired by Watts' experience of watching a seven-year-old child streaming the live execution of Saddam Hussein on their phone. Watts shot a movie for each title, which was released as Morethanmusic & Film in the same year.
In 2011, Watts re-recorded 14 of the most famous Fischer-Z songs with his current band and released it as John Watts - Fischer-Z. In contrast to this release, Watts released an album of live solo recordings the following year called Realistic Man.
On 24 April 2014 John Watts Fischer-Z started a four-day tour of the Netherlands in De Vorstin in Hilversum, which continued into Germany.
In 2015, Watts decided to return with the Fischer-Z name and release the This is My Universe album, which was an introspective look at his own life and the changing world around him. It contained the track "Martha Thargill", in which Watts reassesses the miners' strike 30 years on.
In 2017, Watts released his nineteenth original studio album Building Bridges, which was a statement on the challenges of today. "Damascus Disco" was the lead single and challenged the same idea, encouraging the listeners to put aside their differences. Swimming in Thunderstorms was released on 13 September 2019, preceded by the single "Big Wide World".
|Year||Title||Chart peak positions|
|1980||Going Deaf for a Living||–||52||–||–||6|
|1981||Red Skies over Paradise||–||70||–||6||2|
|2016||This is My Universe||–||–||–||–||–|
|2019||Swimming in Thunderstorms||–||–||126||–||–|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.|
|1978||"Wax Dolls"||—||—||—||—||—||Word Salad|
|"First Impressions (Pretty Paracetamol)"||—||—||—||—||—||Word Salad (US edition)|
|1980||"So Long"||72||15||14||—||12||Going Deaf for a Living|
|1981||"Marliese"||—||—||21||37||5||Red Skies over Paradise|
|"El Escritor" (Spanish release of 'The Writer')||—||—||—||—||—|
|1988||"The Perfect Day"||91||12||—||—||—||Reveal|
|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||—|
|"The Peaches & Cream"||—||—||—||—||—||Kamikaze Shirt|
|"You Never Cross the Same River Twice (Turn Back the Clock)"||—||—||—||—||—||Stream|
|"Red Skies over Paradise" (1995 recording)||—||—||—||—||—||The Best|
|"Delight"||—||—||—||—||—||Ether (German pressing only)|
|2004||"Back to Berlin"||—||—||—||—||—||Highlights 1979 to 2004|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.|
- Fischer-Z Going Red For A Salad (1990)
- The Best (1995)
- The Gold Collection (1997)
- The Worker (1997)
- The Perfect Album (1999)
- The Very Best Album Ever (2001)
- Fischer-Z The Garden Party DVD (2004)
- Highlights 1979-2004 (2004)
- "Fischer-Z - Munzinger Biographie". Munzinger-Archiv.
- Lucini, Gianni (20 August 2017). "La prima volta dei Fischer Z di John Watts". Dailygreen (in Italian).
- "AllMusic Review by Stephen Schnee". AllMusic.
- "Fischer-Z blikt terug in Paradiso". Maxazine (in Dutch). 20 January 2018.
- Larkin, Colin (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Seventies Music. London: Virgin Books. p. 155. ISBN 0-7535-0154-6.
- "BAP und Fischer Z rocken am Brombachsee". nordbayern.de (in German).
- Dallach, Christoph (13 May 2016). "John Watts und Fischer-Z: Big in Deutschland". Spiegel Online.
- "Ikone des „New-Wave": Fischer-Z kommt nach Brilon". Wp.de (in German). 19 January 2018.
- "John Malcolm Watts". The European (in German). 10 October 2017.
- "Fischer – Z: brug naar een betere wereld, het kan! | Alternative". Written in Music (in Dutch).
- "Concertrecensie: Fischer-Z in Paard van Troje, Den Haag". Lust For Life Magazine (in Dutch). 11 May 2017.
- "- John Watts mit bittersüßen Klängen". General-Anzeiger Bonn (in German). 11 November 2005.
- "Dieses Comeback gleicht einer Beerdigung". laut.de (in German).
- "Gewinnen: neues Album von Fischer-Z – „This Is My Universe"". Rolling Stone (in German). 19 April 2016.
- Könau, Steffen (30 May 2015). "John Watts aka Fischer-Z: Gallebitteres zuckersüß". Mitteldeutsche Zeitung (in German).
- ""Building Bridges" von Fischer-Z". Echo Online (in German).
- "Fischer-Z: Building Bridges - Album Review". SOUNDS & BOOKS (in German). 28 March 2017.
- "Official Charts > Fischer-Z". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
- Australian chart peaks:
- Top 100 (Kent Music Report) peaks to 12 June 1988: Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives: Australian Chart Book. p. 112. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. N.B. The Kent Report chart was licensed by ARIA between mid-1983 and 12 June 1988.
- Top 50 (ARIA) peaks from 13 June 1988: "australian-charts.com > Fischer-Z in Australian Charts". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
- Reveal (ARIA) peak: "Response from ARIA re: chart inquiry, received 13 September 2016". Imgur.com. Retrieved 13 September 2016.
- "Say No" (ARIA) peak: "Response from ARIA re: chart inquiry, received 5 June 2015". Imgur.com. Archived from the original on 5 June 2015. Retrieved 2016-09-02.
- Top 100 (ARIA) peaks from January 1990 to December 2010: Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010 (pdf ed.). Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing. p. 103.
- "Ultratop Vlaanderen > Fischer-Z in Ultratop Vlaanderen" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
- "Offizielle Deutsche Charts > Suchen nach "Fischer Z"" (in German). GfK Entertainment. Retrieved 24 November 2019. N.B. Select the Album tab to display albums chart peaks.
- "dutchcharts.nl > Fischer-Z in Dutch Charts" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 24 November 2019.