30 years later, the baby on Nirvana’s Nevermind cover is suing for damages

Enlarge / Nirvana’s Nevermind album cover. (credit: DGC Records)

Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind is widely credited with bringing alternative and grunge rock into the mainstream, but now it’s in the news for another reason. Spencer Elden, the adult who was the baby depicted swimming naked on the album’s cover, has filed a lawsuit on the grounds that the photo violated various federal child pornography laws.

The suit, posted here in its entirety, names (among others) DGC Records and its parent companies; Courtney Love and the estate of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain; then-band members Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl; and Chad Channing, a drummer who had left Nirvana the year before Nevermind was released but whose work on the album has been credited in later reissues. The suit is seeking “the actual damages [Spencer] has [sustained], or liquidated damages in the amount of $150,000, and the cost of the action.”

According to Spencer’s father, Rick Elden, the family was paid $200 to throw 4-month-old Spencer into a pool for “half a second” so he could be shot by photographer Kirk Weddle (also named in the suit). The dollar bill on the fish-hook was added after the fact; the suit claims that the baby is grabbing for the dollar bill “like a sex worker,” which together with the exposed penis forms the basis of the suit’s claim that the image is “sexually explicit.”

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