Spencer Elden, who was famously photographed as a baby for Nirvana’s iconic Nevermind album cover, is suing the band for child sexual exploitation. The lawsuit comes just a month shy of the landmark album’s 30th anniversary.
One of the most famous album covers of all time, Nevermind depicts a then four-month-old Elden swimming naked underwater as he reaches for a dollar bill. As the story goes, Elden was the son of a friend of album photographer Kurt Weddle. Nirvana’s label, Geffen, initially objected to Elden’s penis being visible, but Kurt Cobain insisted it not be censored. The Nirvana frontman at one point said his only compromise would be a strategically placed sticker that read, “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile.”
According to TMZ, Elden has now filed a lawsuit against Cobain’s estate and the surviving members of Nirvana, claiming that his legal guardians didn’t formally consent to his image being used on the album cover. He further claims that the image is child pornography and that an agreement to place a sticker over his private parts was never carried out.
Elden is seeking at least $150,000, claiming that he was exploited and that he has suffered lifelong damage as a result.
The new lawsuit appears to stand in contrast to Elden’s feelings about the album cover in 2016, when he recreated the image during a new photoshoot for the LP’s 25th anniversary. At the time, he remarked to the New York Post, “I said to the photographer, ‘Let’s do it naked.’ But he thought that would be weird, so I wore my swim shorts.”
During that same 2016 interview, he added, “The anniversary means something to me. It’s strange that I did this for five minutes when I was four months old and it became this really iconic image.”
That said, Elden has complained about Nirvana in the past, commenting several years back, “It’s one thing to do an album cover with me, it’s another to do 30 million albums and then pretend like you don’t know me. I never met these guys. It’s kinda frustrating to pass it off like I didn’t exist.”
TMZ reached out to reps for Cobain’s estate, as well as surviving members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, but has not received a response yet.
See Spencer Elden recreating the photo in 2016 in the tweet below.
— John Chapple (@johnchapple) September 24, 2016