Nirvana's 1991 album Nevermind has one of the most recognizable album covers of all time—the nude baby underwater has become part of pop culture. Now, that baby is all grown up and he recently filed a lawsuit against the band for child pornography.
The now 30-year-old Spencer Elden filed the lawsuit against the photographer Kirk Weddle, all Nirvana band members, including the estate of the late Kurt Cobain and his widow Courtney Love, and the label behind the album.
The album cover has generally been understood to reflect capitalism, with the dollar bill on the fishhook being the object of the baby's eye in the artwork. But Elden's lawyer offered a different interpretation. He argued that it crosses the line into child porn, saying that the baby going after the bill portrays him like a "sex worker."
The suit also alleges that Nirvana "commercially sexually exploited" Elden who said that he suffered "lifelong damages" from it.
“Defendants used child pornography depicting Spencer as an essential element of a record promotion scheme commonly utilized in the music industry to get attention, wherein album covers posed children in a sexually provocative manner to gain notoriety, drive sales, and garner media attention, and critical reviews," read the lawsuit.
In the past, Elden recreated the cover as a teenager and an adult (with swim trunks on) for the album's anniversaries. He even had the Nevermind emblem tattooed on his chest.
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In recent interviews about the artwork, however, he expressed mixed feelings about the fame he gained from the photo, which he never described as pornographic until the recent lawsuit.
"It’s hard not to get upset when you hear how much money was involved… [When] 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," he told Time Magazine in 2016 during the album's 25th anniversary.
Thumbnail and banner photos by Kirk Weddle, Instagram.