August 25, 2021
-Ultimate Classic Rock
Spencer Elden, the man who, as a baby, posed for the iconic cover image to Nirvana’s Nevermind is reportedly suing the band and Kurt Cobain’s estate, claiming he was exploited for the picture.
Court documents allege the band “knowingly produced, possessed, and advertised commercial child pornography depicting Spencer, and they knowingly received value in exchange for doing so.”
According to Elden, photographer Kirk Weddle took pictures of his naked body “in poses highlighting and emphasizing Spencer’s exposed genitals.”
The suit further alleges that Cobain “agreed to redact Spencer’s image by releasing the album with a sticker strategically placed over Spencer’s genitals with the text: ‘If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile.’” Such a sticker was “never incorporated” into the album’s cover.
Interestingly, the suit cites album covers for Scorpion’s Virgin Killer, Blind Faith’s Blind Faith, and Van Halen’s Balance as other examples of previous “controversial campaigns used to promote music with sexually explicit material depicting a child or outright child pornography.”
“Neither Spencer nor his legal guardians ever signed a release authorizing the use of any images of Spencer or of his likeness, and certainly not of commercial child pornography depicting him,” the documents further state.
Elden claims that the image has caused him to “suffer lifelong damages.
Released Sept. 24, 1991, Nevermind would become one of the most legendary albums in rock history. The LP rocketed Nirvana to stardom and became the definitive release of the grunge revolution. Its cover, featuring the naked four-month-old Elden in a swimming pool, being lured by a dollar bill on a fishing line, ranks among the most iconic album covers of all time. According to a 2008 report from NPR, Elden’s father, Rick, was paid $200 for his child’s modeling work.
In adulthood, Elden has recreated the famous cover on multiple occasions. Though he has “Nevermind” tattooed on his chest, Elden’s view of the iconic image has seemingly changed in recent years. In 2016, he admitted to GQ Australia that he was “pissed off” about the picture. “I’ve been going through it my whole life. But recently I’ve been thinking, ‘What if I wasn’t OK with my freaking penis being shown to everybody?,” Elden explained at the time. “I didn’t really have a choice.”