The cover for Nevermind, a 1991 Nirvana album that’s said to possess helped redefine rock ‘n’ roll, features an unadorned 4-month-old baby during a pool, appearing to swim after a dollar that’s pierced with a fish hook. That baby — the now 30-year-old Spencer Elden — is suing Nirvana for child exploitation and pornography, saying the band knowingly distributed the naked photo of Elden as a baby and profited from it.
He’s posing for $150,000 in damages from each of the defendants, which include members of the band, Kurt Cobain’s estate, photographer Kirk Weddle, Universal Music, Geffen Records, Warner Records, and MCA Music. the duvet photo was shot by Weddle, who was a lover of Elden’s father. The lawsuit accuses Weddle of manufacturing a “sexually graphic” photo of Elden. It adds that there was initial pushback against featuring Elden’s genitals on the album cover and therefore the plan was to put a sticker over it.
“The sticker, however, was never incorporated into the album cover,” the lawsuit states. Elden’s parents also never signed a release authorizing the utilization of the image, and Elden himself never received any compensation, the lawsuit says. “Spencer’s true identity and legal name are forever tied to the commercial sexual exploitation he experienced as a minor,” Robert Lewis, Elden’s attorney, writes within the lawsuit.
Lewis writes that Elden has experienced emotional distress and interference with emotional and academic development. In a 2008 interview with NPR, Elden, then in high school, was still struggling to form a sense of his public image. “Quite a couple of people within the world have seen my penis,” he said, “So that’s kinda cool. I’m just a traditional kid living it up and doing the simplest I can while I’m here.”