John Watts

One VoiceOne More Twist
I Know It NowOne More Twist
I Smelt Roses (In The Underground)The Iceberg Model
Man In Someone Else's SkinThe Iceberg Model
Need YouQuick Quick Slow
Take It Round AgainQuick Quick Slow
LoveshakerThirteen Stories High
Monday MagicReal Life Is Good Enough
Adrian's Song (Brothers)It Has To Be
The WaveMore Than Music


John Watts playlist


Contributor: Alan Haines

Sometimes it’s hard to tell where John Watts begins and the band Fischer-Z ends. And vice versa. It was the band’s third single, The Worker, that I first heard, played during a visit in 1979 to the legendary Selectadisc record store in Nottingham. I didn’t buy it. I actually purchased the blue vinyl 12 inch version of Out There In The Night by The Only Ones, but I digress. Shortly after that I saw Fischer-Z as they played at the Trent Polytechnic Clifton Campus. The next day I trotted off to Selectadisc and bought Fischer-Z’s first album Word Salad. They even had an appearance on Top Of The Pops that year. Two more albums followed, Going Deaf For A Living and Red Skies Over Paradise. The lyrics of John Watts, heavily politicised and with a healthy dose of witty cynicism, were just what young students about to embark on a career to nowhere in Thatcher’s Britain needed. Well, they suited me anyway!


I need to remind myself that this piece is principally about John Watts the solo artist, but I think anyone unfamiliar with him would appreciate knowing a little about his Fischer-Z foundations. This is made a little easier for me as John Watts split up the band in 1981 and the next year he released his first solo album, One More Twist. That’s my battered but much-loved second hand copy of the album (see above) as my original was on loan to someone in Harringay, North London in 1985. Last I saw of that. From this album I choose his debut solo single, One Voice, as an opener for my Top Ten of John Watts songs. This powerful song with a driving beat asks everyone to unite in a common cause and speak with a single voice. Just as relevant today methinks. My second song is also from this album, a scary near death through drowning experience called I Know It Now. Quite frankly they are all good songs and the album is well worth listening too if you want to hear a British songwriter performing with intelligence and integrity. I appreciate his voice isn’t exactly relaxing, he’s no Frank Sinatra, but if it’s something distinctive you go for in a singer and musician, then you might find you like his stuff.


John Watts The Iceberg Model

In 1983, John Watts gave us The Iceberg Model. This had a less of a ‘rock’ sound to it and featured brass and strings, very lush in places. The album cover featured John Watts face as a cloud formation over what I think is Brighton beach and pier (see above). The standout track here and the third on my list is I Smelt Roses (In The Underground). This song was released as a single and explores the despair of a lost love, which just goes to show he can write polished lyrics about people as well as politics and providing pithy social commentary. I also love the second track on side two called Man In Someone Else’s Skin. Apparently, John Watts used to work as a mental health worker and studied psychiatry. Many of his songs reflect the struggle felt by many in their day-to-day contact with others and the world around them. He’s a bit before his time on this as his subject matter is much more appreciated nowadays.


I’m going to include the 1984 album called Quick Quick Slow by The Cry as a John Watts solo album. It states quite clearly on the front, featuring John Watts, so that’s convinced me. This enables me to select my fifth song; this is Need You which is probably self-explanatory in terms of what it’s about. The album was lighter in content and style and much more accessible with a distinct 1980s feel and sound to it. The single Take It Round Again was also released as a 12 inch (see above) with a different cover to the 7 inch single. He always delivered great songs and these three albums are ones I turn to again and again.

However, in 1987, John Watts launched a revamped Fischer-Z and it wasn’t until 1997 that he issued a solo album again, Thirteen Stories High. This was a return to a more earthy sound although the songs display a great deal of variation and depth. Try Loveshaker from this album to get a feel for it.


There was a very different approach taken with his next two solo albums, Bigbeatpoetry in 1999 and Spiritual Headcase Remixes in 2000. These showcased his poetry and other material along with some background rhythms. I would suggest these are for hardcore John Watts fans.

In 2005, there arrived the first of two conjoined albums, Real Life Is Good Enough, and from this one, my eighth song, try the peppy and danceable Monday Magic. This was followed in 2007 by It Has To Be which I think is a good old fashioned concept album. He based each song on a different person he met in Europe and so each song is named after them. By popular acclamation the fan’s favourite from this album is Adrian’s Song (Brothers) which is based upon a meeting he had in Zurich.

There was another solo release in 2009, the album called More Than Music. This is John Watts very much on familiar territory, great songs with strong melodies. Fabulous stuff. From this I have no hesitation is picking the brilliant The Wave. It’s graphic and horrific, and very moving. It asks that question, the one we never get a satisfactory answer to – Why?


And I’ll finish my John Watts set with a sneaky 11th choice from this album, the infectious URSo.








Fischer-Z/John Watts official website

John Watts/Fischer-Z bandcamp

John Watts discography

John Watts Rockpalast 1982 (full gig on YT)

John Watts biography (AllMusic)

Alan Haines is now retired and enjoying not going to work but doing things he wants instead, such as reading, listening to music, researching family history and walking the dog.

TopperPost #1,044


  1. David Lewis
    Oct 25, 2022

    Never realised there was a recording life beyond Fischer-Z. I’m enjoying expanding my musical knowledge. Thanks.

    • Alan Haines
      Oct 28, 2022

      I hope you like his solo material as much as the Fischer Z stuff. I aim to do a piece on the band in the future so look out for that one. Cheers. Alan

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