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"Fisher z" redirects here. For the statistical term, see Fisher's z-distribution.
John Watts in 2012 playing at the Liberation Day Festival in The Hague
Background information
Origin United Kingdom
Genres Rock, new wave
Years active 1976–2002
Members John Watts – guitar, vocals
Steve Liddle - drums
David Graham – bass guitar
Steve Skolnik - keyboards

Fischer-Z were a British rock band formed in 1976 by John Watts and Steve Skolnik at Brunel University. 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 start a four-day tour of the Netherlands in De Vorstin in Hilversum, which will then continue into Germany.[3] This tour is leading up to the release of a new album This is my universe.[4]



  • "Wax Dolls" b/w "Angry Brigade" (Sep 1978)- United Artists UP 36458
  • "Remember Russia" b/w "Bigger Slice Now" (Feb 1979) - United Artists UP 36486
  • "The Worker" b/w "Kitten Curry" (May 1979) — UK No. 53, NL No. 20 - United Artists UP 36509
  • "First Impressions (Pretty Paracetamol)" b/w "High Wire Walker" (Aug 1979) - United Artists BP 305
  • "So Long" b/w "Hiding" (Mar 1980) — UK No. 72, AUS No. 15, NL No. 12, PT No. 9 - United Artists BP 360
  • "Crazy Girl" b/w "Hiding" (1980) GERMANY only United Artists 1C 006-82 857
  • "Room Service" b/w "Pick Up/Slip Up" (1980) GERMANY only United Artists 1C 006-82 964
  • "Limbo" b/w "The Rat Man" (Sep 1980) - Liberty BP BP 360
  • "Marliese" b/w "Right Hand Men" (Feb 1981); NL No. 31; PT No. 1 - Liberty BP 360
  • "(Wrist) 'cutters Lullaby" b/w "You'll Never Find Brian Here" (May 1981) - Liberty BP 398
  • "Berlin" (1981)
  • "The Writer" (El Escritor) (1981)
  • "The Perfect Day" b/w "Marguerite" (Feb 1988) — UK No. 91, AUS No. 12 - Arista 109396
  • "Big Drum" b/w "The Camera Lies" (Apr 1988) - Arista 109 704
  • "Say No" b/w "Psychojazz Shuffle" (1989) - Arista 112 301
  • "Masquerade" b/w "She Said" (1989) - Ariola 112 506
  • "Sausages & Tears" b/w "Dangerous Talk" (1990) - Marquee MARQ002 - Credited to John Watts & Fischer-Z
  • "Destination Paradise" b/w "Destination Paradise" (Economy Version) (1992) - Ariola 114 967
  • "Will You Be There?" (1992)
  • "Tightrope" (1992)
  • "The Peaches & Cream" b/w "Chicken Sprawl" (1993) - Harvest 7243 8 80773 2 3
  • "Caruso" b/w "Count to Ten" (1993) - Harvest 7243 8 80578 2 0
  • "Human Beings" (1994)
  • "Marlon" (1994)
  • "You'll Never Cross the Same River Twice (Turn Back the Clock)" (1994)
  • "Need Protection" (1995)
  • "Red Skies Over Paradise" (1995)
  • "Jukebox" (2002)
  • "Delight" (2002)
  • "Back to Berlin" (2004)[5]



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 (1998)
  • The Perfect Album (1999)
  • Fischer-Z The Garden Party DVD (2004)
  • Fischer-Z Highlights 1979-2004 (2004)[5]


  1. ^ Larkin, Colin (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Seventies Music. London: Virgin Books. p. 155. ISBN 0-7535-0154-6. 
  2. ^ David Kent (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970 - 1992. Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 200. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links[edit]