Famous Nirvana Album Cover Baby is Suing the Band for Sexual Exploitation

Nevermind, one of the most famous albums of all time, had an equally recognizable cover star. But nearly 30 years after the LP's release, he's not too thrilled about his participation in the whole thing.

Nirvana's iconic album Nevermind turns 30 next month. The cover art, a naked baby underwater swimming towards a $20 bill, is about as recognizable as the opening riff to "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

But it's doubtful that its cover art star, Spencer Elden, who was four months old at the time of the photograph, will be attending any anniversary celebrations. Instead, you'll find him in court: Elden is suing Nirvana for sexual exploitation and pornography. The lawsuit claims the photo made him appear like "a sex worker grabbing for a dollar bill."

He's seeking $150,000 in damages from multiple parties involved in the album's creation and release, which includes the estate of legendary frontman Kurt Cobain, other members of the band, photographer Kirk Weddle, Warner Records, MCA Music, and Universal Music.

An image of a wooden judicial gavel.
Getty Images.

How did Elden get the gig in the first place? Apparently, his father, Kirk, was a friend of Weddle's.

"[He] calls us up and was like, 'Hey Rick, want to make 200 bucks and throw your kid in the drink?,'" Rick recounted in a 2008 interview with NPR. "I was like, 'What's up?' And he's like, 'Well, I'm shooting kids all this week, why don't you meet me at the Rose Bowl, throw your kid in the drink?' And we just had a big party at the pool, and no one had any idea what was going on."

But the lawsuit alleges the family never saw any money for the photo. What's more, the complaint says that the initial plan was to place a sticker over Elden's genitals. Obviously, that never happened. Spencer's parents also never authorized the image's release, according to the lawsuit.

"Spencer's true identity and legal name are forever tied to the commercial sexual exploitation he experienced as a minor," Elden's lawyer, Robert Lewis, writes in the lawsuit.

The recent complaint isn't the first time Elden has voiced his feelings on the cover art.

"It's cool but weird to be part of something so important that I don't even remember," Spencer told the New York Post in 2016.

Later that year, the former Nirvana album cover baby was having other thoughts.

"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,'" he spilled to Australian GQ.

Consent regarding public photos has become an even hotter topic since Elden's infancy, as parents can now share anything and everything on social media. Experts suggest thinking before you post, particularly when it comes to nudity or behaviors your child may find embarrassing one day."

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