Music | August 25, 2021 10:30 am

The Baby From the “Nevermind” Cover (Who Is Now a Man) Sues Nirvana, Claiming It’s Child Pornography

Spencer Elden says his legal guardians never consented to having his naked genitals on the cover of the 1991 album

Spencer Elden on the cover of Nirvana's "Nevermind". Elden, now a man, is suing, claiming the album cover is child pornography.
Spencer Elden on the cover of Nirvana's "Nevermind"
DGC Records

Spencer Elden, the man who appeared on the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind album when he was a baby, embraced his role in rock history for many years. He has reenacted the iconic underwater photo several times throughout his life — most recently in 2016, when he and the album turned 25 — and he has “Nevermind” tattooed across his chest. In recent years, however, he’s had a change of heart, telling the Australian GQ , “It’s fucked up. I’m pissed off about it, to be honest. Recently I’ve been thinking, ‘What if I wasn’t OK with my freaking penis being shown to everybody?’ I didn’t really have a choice.”

Now, he’s taking it one step further, alleging that the album cover is child pornography and suing Nirvana, the surviving individual members of the band, Kurt Cobain’s estate, the record labels that released the album and photographer Kirk Weddle. Original Nirvana drummer Chad Channing is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit for some reason, even though he was replaced by Dave Grohl in 1990, before the album was recorded or the cover photo was taken. Elden claims in the suit that neither his legal guardians nor he (obviously, given that he was a four-month-old baby at the time) consented to having his naked genitals appear on the cover, and he’s seeking $150,000 from each party named in the lawsuit, alleging that they failed to protect him from being sexually exploited. He also claims in the lawsuit that the band promised to cover his genitalia with a sticker that never wound up being incorporated into the cover design.

“The permanent harm he has proximately suffered includes but is not limited to extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations, interference with his normal development and educational progress, lifelong loss of income earning capacity, loss of past and future wages, past and future expenses for medical and psychological treatment, loss of enjoyment of life, and other losses to be described and proven at trial of this matter,” the lawsuit reads.

He’s obviously no longer around to respond, but it seems unlikely Cobain would have agreed that the image is child pornography. In Michael Azerrad’s biography Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana, the frontman revealed that the label wanted to use a different cover image for Nevermind, but he insisted, noting that the only alteration to the cover he would ever consider is adding a sticker covering the baby’s penis that read, “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile.”

The surviving members of Nirvana have not yet commented publicly on the lawsuit.