Spencer Elden, the naked baby on the ‘Nevermind’ cover who has filed a lawsuit against Nirvana, wants the album art altered for any future re-releases, his lawyer says.
It was revealed yesterday (August 25) that Elden, now 30, is suing the band’s surviving members and Kurt Cobain’s estate, among other individuals and entities. The lawsuit alleges that the use of Elden’s image on the album art, taken when he was a months-old baby, amounted to “commercial child sexual exploitation”.
The lawsuit alleges that the band and other defendants “violated” federal child pornography statutes by using the image, and that Elden sustained “injuries” and “lifelong damages” as a result of the album cover and the record’s global success and fame.
“Neither Spencer nor his legal guardians ever signed a release authorizing the use of any images of Spencer or of his likeness,” the filing claims, “and certainly not of commercial child pornography depicting him.”
Part of the relief Elden seeks, according to the lawsuit, is to “prohibit Defendants from continuing to engage in the unlawful acts and practices described herein”.
In new comments to the press, one of Elden’s attorneys has said that he wants any future versions of the album to be altered. “If there is a 30th anniversary re-release, he wants for the entire world not to see his genitals,” lawyer Maggie Mabie told The Associated Press.
In June, bassist Krist Novoselic (who is named in the lawsuit, alongside Dave Grohl and the band’s 1988-1990 drummer Chad Channing) had teased a 30th anniversary reissue of ‘Nevermind’, saying that they’re “still putting it together.” ‘Nevermind’ was released September 24, 1991.
Mabie also told The New York Times that Elden is “asking for Nirvana to do what Nirvana should have done 30 years ago and redact the images of his genitalia from the album cover.”
Mabie referred to a claim in the lawsuit that “Cobain agreed to redact Spencer’s image” with a sticker bearing the text “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile”. The album was ultimately released without the sticker.
None of the defendants named in the filing has publicly responded to the lawsuit at the time of writing. NME has reached out to photographer Kirk Weddle and co-manager of Cobain’s estate Guy Oseary, both of whom were named in the filing, for comment.
Elden has been profiled by several publications since the release of ‘Nevermind’, often for stories celebrating the album’s anniversary at various points over the years. Elden has even recreated the album cover, though clothed, in photoshoots – first in 2008, and then in 2016 for the album’s 25th anniversary.
Speaking to The New York Times, Mabie acknowledged that Elden had in the past agreed to recreate the photo as an adult, but said he eventually realised that this only resulted in the “image of him as a baby being further exploited”.
Elden has in the past publicly voiced his ambivalence about his appearance on the ‘Nevermind’ cover. “It’s kind of creepy [to think] that that many people have seen me naked,” a 17-year-old Elden told MTV News in 2008. “I feel like I’m the world’s biggest porn star.”
In 2016, Elden told TIME that he had unsuccessfully explored taking legal action against Geffen Records, which is named in the new lawsuit.
Mabie told The Associated Press that Elden is only filing the lawsuit now because he “finally has the courage to hold these actors accountable.”