And Finally Artist News Legal

Olivia Neutron-John drops name following cease-and-desist from Olivia Newton-John

By | Published on Tuesday 8 October 2019

Olivia Neutron-John

There’s been a trend for pun artist names based on celebrities in recent years. What with Com Truise. Joy Orbison. Elvis Depressedly. Hoodie Allen. Flint Eastwood. Joanna Gruesome. Arvo Party. Good Willsmith. Kane West. David Zowie. Gringo Starr. Ringo Deathstarr. San Holo. Iron Curtis. Salmon Rushdie. Rad Pitt. Jackie Chain. Jennifer Lo-Fi.

Not to mention Throbbin Williams. Kylie Minoise. Lana Del Rabies. DJ Salinger. PS Eliot. Depressed Mode. The Ellen Degenerates. Ellen And The Degenerates. Gene Wildest. Bear Grillz. Ghostface Kilobyte. Jay Not Z. Rolly Mingwald. Curb Cobain. Filth Collins.

So, all things considered, it’s amazing that we haven’t run a story like this before. But Olivia Neutron-John has announced that they are dropping the name after a cease-and-desist letter from their namesake.

I only made up one of those punny band names, by the way. And it wasn’t Olivia Neutron-John. Otherwise this ‘and finally’ wouldn’t need to exist. But this legal threat from Olivia Newton-John is very real, it seems.

Newton-John believed that Neutron-John was sufficiently similar to cause confusion. Neutron-John does not believe this to be the case but can’t afford to fight back against Newton-John’s lawyers. You’re keeping up with this, right? You’re ability to follow this story favours either Newton-John or Neutron-John, given the dispute is all about possible confusion.

In a post on Instagram yesterday, Neutron-John – who also works under the name Anna Nasty – said that a recent performance supporting Stereolab in New York would be their last under the name, adding that they “couldn’t have planned a better way to go out”. Although Nasty has performed as Olivia Neutron-John since around 2013, it appears to be the release of an album earlier this year that pricked up the ears of Newton-John’s lawyers.

“In July, before the record had even been out for two months, I received a cease-and-desist from Olivia Newton-John’s legal team”, Nasty wrote. “Because I have very limited resources, I was unable to fight it. I am going to take this as an opportunity to step back and reinvent. Although it has been very difficult and emotional closing this chapter of my life, I’m excited for a new beginning. I’ll be back again, under another name”.

The label that released the Olivia Neutron-John album, Sister Polygon Records, added in its own Instagram post: “Anna is one of the greatest living artists we’ve ever met, and it is so upsetting to see a group of lawyers representing someone with a disproportionate amount of money and power get in the way of their expression for some non-existent capital gain. It is absolutely soul-wrecking to see someone’s life work get trampled on this way. Please support ONJ in any way you can right now. I know it would mean a lot to them as they regroup and rebuild”.

Had it progressed, Newton-John’s lawyers would presumably have argued that Neutron-John was particularly close to their client’s name, adding that said client also had a long career in music herself. Of course, to be confused Newton-John’s fans would have to mistakenly believe that the ‘Grease’ star had suddenly dyed her hair black, started making lo-fi pop, and become 50-odd years younger. Which might be just a bit of a stretch.

Though, the legal people might also argue that Newton-John fans could mis-read Neutron-John posters and think that the star had started playing small punk venues in Brooklyn. Add to that the fact that, in her heyday, Newton-John was often nicknamed Olivia Neutron-Bomb, and maybe you’ve got yourself a perfectly good legal argument.

Exactly what Newton-John’s demands in her cease-and-desist letter were isn’t clear. Aside from forcing Nasty to stop using the Neutron-John name, she may also be asking for all existing recordings to be withdrawn from the market. If that’s the case, it hasn’t happened as yet.

Both Nasty and Sister Polygon urged fans to buy the twelve-inch of the Olivia Neutron-John album “while it’s still available”. Did that mean releases will soon be withdrawn? Probably not. Given the twelve-inch has already sold out in the label’s online store, that statement was probably made because stock levels are low. The CD is still available and you can currently find the record on all the digital services.

It remains to be seen what new moniker Anna Nasty takes up. Sadly, John Revolta is already taken.