Baby on cover of Nirvana album 'Nevermind' sues band for 'child pornography'
Spencer Elden, who appeared on the iconic cover of Nirvana's hugely successful Nevermind album, is now suing the band (both surviving members in addition to the estate of Kurt Cobain) and others for "child sexual exploitation of him from while he was a minor to the present day."
In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court's central district of California, California court, Elden and his attorney contend that the "defendants knowingly produced, possessed, and advertised commercial child pornography depicting Spencer, and they knowingly received value in exchange for doing so."
Elden further alleges that Kurt Cobain chose the image, ultimately depicting then four-month-old Elden as "a sex worker."
Meanwhile, Elden says that photographer Kirk Weddle, a family friend, "activated Spencer’s 'gag reflex' before throwing him underwater in poses highlighting and emphasizing Spencer’s exposed genitals" in an effort "to ensure the album cover would trigger a visceral sexual response from the viewer."
Released in 1991, Nevermind went on to sell over 30 million copies worldwide and is one of the best-selling albums of all time. Its famous album cover consists of a nude Elden swimming towards an artificially added dollar bill. Elden's parents were reportedly paid $200 for the photo shoot.
Elden, now a 30 year-old, is seeking $150,000 from each of the 17 defendants in addition to possible punitive damages and attorney's fees.
While Elden has recreated the pose several times over the years for myriad features related to various Nevermind anniversaries, he has repeatedly expressed ambivalence towards his role in the album's legacy. Speaking to Time Magazine in 2016 in honor of Nevermind's 25th anniversary, Elden said, "Looking back, it feels kind of stupid doing interviews about it, because I had nothing to do with it, but a lot to do with it all at the same time."
While Elden recognizes the "genius" of the cover concept, he has clearly resented his lack of compensation, telling Time, "Everyone involved in the album has tons and tons of money. I feel like I'm the last little bit of grunge rock. I'm living in my mom’s house and driving a Honda Civic."
"It's hard not to get upset when you hear how much money was involved," Elden explained. "I go to a baseball game and think about it: 'Man, everybody at this baseball game has probably seen my little baby penis,' I feel like I got part of my human rights revoked."
The entire Elden v. Nirvana L.L.C. et al court document can be viewed here.