When Spencer Elden was a baby, he was famously photographed for Nirvana’s legendary Nevermind album cover. Now, he’s suing the band for child sexual exploitation.
Elden filed the lawsuit just one month before the iconic album’s 30th anniversary. Its cover shows a four-month-old Elden swimming naked, reaching for a dollar bill. According to the Nevermind story, Elden was the son of a friend of album photographer Kirk Weddle.
Geffen (Nirvana’s label) initially refused to keep Elden’s penis visible, but Kurt Cobain insisted that they not censor it. Cobain said that he would only compromise by placing a strategic sticker that read: “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile.”
Nirvana sued by the baby from Nevermind’s album cover https://t.co/YAJH6BY1HN
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) August 25, 2021
Elden has now filed a lawsuit against Cobain’s estate and the surviving Nirvana members, according to TMZ. The lawsuit claims that his legal guardians did not formally consent to the use of his image on the cover.
Elden also claims that the image can be classified as child pornography, citing that the agreement to place a sticker was never followed through with. He says that, as a child, he was exploited and has suffered lifelong damage. Elden was repotedly never paid for his appearance, and his parents did not sign a release form for the image.
The lawsuit accuses the defendants of “commercial child sexual exploitation of him from while he was a minor to present day … defendants knowingly produced, possessed and advertised commercial child pornography depicting Spencer.”
He is seeking damages of at least $150,000 from each of the 15 defendants, including Cobain’s widow Courtney Love.
Elden’s thoughts on the Nevermind cover:
Back in 2016, Elden famously recreated the Nevermind cover with a new photoshoot marking the album’s 25th anniversary. “I said to the photographer, ‘Let’s do it naked,'” Elden told the New York Post. “But he thought that would be weird, so I wore my swim shorts.”
— John Chapple (@johnchapple) September 24, 2016
At the same time, Elden has also complained about Nirvana and the way they went about the cover. “It’s one thing to do an album cover me, it’s another to do 30 million albums and then pretend like you don’t know me,” Elden told BBC. “I never met these guys. It’s kinda frustrating to pass it off like I didn’t exist.”
TMX has reached out to Cobain’s estate and surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic. They have yet to receive a response.