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 John Watts (vocals, guitar), David Graham (bass), Steve Skolnik (keyboards), and Steve Liddle (drums).
Fischer-Z's first hit was "The Worker" from the album Word Salad which firmly established Watts' ability to convey worldly political issues in narrative songs against a background of quirky pop and reggae-influenced music. In an interview in Record Mirror in 1981, Watts put this down to the remix of the song from the album version, which put the emphasis on the keyboards rather than his guitar.
John Watts is a self-confessed "follower of the troubadour tradition" and his lyrics draw heavily on his experiences of studying clinical psychology and as a mental health care worker. Several songs on the album Red Skies Over Paradise in 1981, such as "Berlin" and "Red Skies Over Paradise" are about the Cold War and the song "Cruise Missiles" is 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 #3 album). Fischer-Z were also very 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 the album Reveal.
Skolnik departed after their second album Going Deaf for a Living and after the following album Red Skies over Paradise John Watts decided to break the band up in the summer of 1981 as he felt his art could not evolve within the context of the band. In 1988 John 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, 1989 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". 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.