'Cover Baby' - why 30 years later Spencer Elden sued Nirvana over his 'Nevermind' photo

"It's cool, but it's strange to be part of something so important that I don't even remember..." Elden said in 2016, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Nevermind.

Nirvana, 'Nevermind' Cover Baby, and Million Dollar Lawsuit - Let's Understand the Situation Together

Nevermind - cult creation Kurt Cobain and his groups Nirvana. Despite the label's modest forecasts, the record was a resounding success: after its release in September 1991, it sold a dizzying circulation of 300,000 copies a week ... Today, Nevermind, with its worldwide circulation of more than 30 million copies, is "diamond" from RIAA! It is worth noting that over the years, not only the opening track has become legendary "Smells like Teen Spirit", but also the cover, which depicts a naked baby immersed in water. AND Spencer Kenneth Royce Elden - the same child who appeared on the cover of the cult Nirvana album! Remarkably, the band originally — inspired by the water birth documentary — wanted to put a frame from the tape on the cover. In fact, it could save Nirvana from a lot of trouble in the future ...

Real character photo

This is how the photo for "Nevermind" was created
This is how the photo for "Nevermind" was created

Spencer Elden not just a resident Los Angeles, but the same man who was photographed naked under water as a baby, as a result of which he ended up on the cover of the cult album "Nevermind"! And everything was fine, until Tuesday August 24, 2021 he didn't sue, claiming he was a sexual victim as a child... It's worth emphasizing that the cover of the album shows Spencer completely naked...

Spencer Elden
Spencer Elden

When creating a cover "Nevermind" a digital overlay of a dollar bill on a fishhook was used. It looks like a child is trying to grab a bill! A similar effect was used as a reproach to capitalism, nothing more ... And photos of non-sexual babies, as a rule, do not violate the law.

Nirvana band
Nirvana band

However ... Spencer's lawyer has a different opinion on this matter: Robert Y. Lewis claims that the inclusion of currency in the frame makes the photo of the child vulgar and ambiguous:

"Kurt Cobain chose an image in which Spencer - like a sex worker - grabs a dollar bill that hangs on a fish hook in front of his naked body with evidence clearly exposed that he is a man ... "

"List of accused"

This is how the cover of the legendary album “Nevermind” was filmed
This is how the cover of the legendary album “Nevermind” was filmed

Spencer now wants at least $150,000 from each of the defendants, which includes: Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic; Cobain's estate manager Courtney Love; Cobain estate managers Guy Osiri and Heather Parry; photographer Kirk Weddle; artistic director Robert Fisher; as well as a number of existing or defunct record labels that released or distributed the album...

The most interesting thing about all this is that the drummer Chad Channing also appears as a defendant! Although Dave Grohl took over in 1990, before the album was recorded or the cover photo was taken. It's really weird...

"Commercialization on children" - how much profit Spencer's photo brought

Kurt Cobain even took a nap during a photo shoot for "Nevermind"
Kurt Cobain even took a nap during a photo shoot for "Nevermind"

The idea hit Cobain after watching a documentary about babies being born underwater. Shooting Spencer for the cover of Nevermind took place at the Pasadena Aquatic Center in California.

“Kirk Weddle took a series of sexy nude photos of Spencer Elden. He deliberately threw him under the water in a pose that emphasized his masculinity. All this was done in order to enhance and increase the commercial success of Nirvana's Nevermind album…” the lawsuit says.


Of course, such a spectacular cover really contributed to the commercial success of the album itself: sales 300,000 copies a week, number one on the Billboard 200, and 335 weeks on the chart! This all sounds fantastic...

Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain

The cover image resonated, and at some point Cobain agreed to release the album with a sticker on Spencer's particularly intimate spot...

“However, this never happened,” the lawsuit says. As a result, Spencer Alden "suffered and will continue to suffer from physical abuse" and "mentally irreversible trauma", including "extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations, interference with his normal development and progress in his studies, loss of his ability to earn a lifetime." , past and future expenses for medical and psychological treatment, loss of enjoyment of life…”, the lawsuit says.

Why did you need to recreate the photo

Spencer Elden
Spencer Elden

But in this case, we come to a completely logical and reasonable question: why was it necessary to recreate a photo that entailed such significant losses, diving into pools and posing (in swimming trunks) for the occasion 10th, 17th, 20th and 25th album anniversaries? In most interviews Spencer Elden expressed deeply mixed feelings about being famous for the cover Nevermind, however, until now, despite his constant ambiguous attitude towards the heritage of photography, he did not call it destructive for himself ...

“It’s cool, but it’s strange to be part of something so important that I don’t even remember…” Elden said in 2016, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Nevermind.

Spencer Elden
Spencer Elden

According to Spencer, he was never paid for a photograph beyond those 200 dollarswhich his parents were paid on the day of the shoot. He also said that he had made attempts to contact Grol and Novoselic on a friendly basis, but never received a response. The key factor in this whole story was that Spencer's parents did not even sign documents allowing any use of their child's image. In 2008 Elden's father, Rick, told NPR the following:

“My friend Weddle, a photographer, called and said, “Hey Rick, you want to make 200 bucks and throw your kid in the pool?” I thought, "What happened?" And he's like, "Well, I've been filming kids all week, why don't you meet me at the Rose Bowl (aquatic center), throw your kid in the pool for $200?" We just had a big pool party and nobody knew what was going on!”

in the story NPR it was said that the family didn't think about it anymore until three months later they saw a 9' x 9' cover on the wall Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard! “Two months later,” the article says, “ Geffen Records sent one-year-old Spencer Elden a platinum album and a teddy bear ... "


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