The baby on the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind album has refiled a lawsuit against the rock band.
While you might not know the name Spencer Elden, you will almost certainly recognise him as the baby that featured swimming naked on the cover of Nirvana’s 1991 Nevermind album, which sold over 30 million copies across the world.
An initial file was dismissed by a US judge earlier this month but Mr Elden, who was only four months old when he was pictured, has refiled a lawsuit, claiming the album cover picture constitutes child pornography as it shows his genitalia.
This is what you need to know.
Why is Spencer Elden suing?
Elden alleged that his “true identity and legal name are forever tied to the commercial exploitation he experienced as a minor which has been distributed and sold worldwide from the time he was a baby to the present day”.
Robert Y Lewis, Elden’s lawyer, argues that the image on the Nevermind album crosses the line into child pornography, stating that the use of currency in the image makes the baby appear “like a sex worker”.
But the lawsuit previously filed by Mr Elden’s lawyers was dismissed by a US judge earlier this month.
Mr Elden was given until 13 January to pursue the case and file a second amended complaint. Documents filed on 11 January claimed Mr Elden would “continue to suffer damages as long as the violations described above persist”.
“During the ten years preceding the filing of this action, each defendant intentionally commercially marketed the child pornography depicting Spencer and leveraged the lascivious nature of his image to promote the Nevermind album, the band, and Nirvana’s music, while earning, at a minimum, tens of millions of dollars in the aggregate,” the lawsuit said.
In the original claim, filed in August 2021, lawyers alleged Nirvana “failed to take reasonable steps to protect Spencer and prevent his widespread sexual exploitation and image trafficking”. These allegations have now been dropped.
How did the album cover art come about?
Kirk Weedle, the photographer of the picture, was a friend of Elden’s father, Rick.
Speaking to NPR in 2008, Rick said: “[Weedle] calls us up and was like, “hey Rick, wanna make 200 bucks and throw your kid in the drink?”
“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 kind in the drink?” And we just had a big party at the pool, and no-one had any idea what was going on!”
In 1991, Geffen Records reportedly sent Elden a platinum copy of the Nevermind album, and a teddy bear.
Photographer John Chapple posted a picture of Elden on his Instagram showcasing some behind the scenes images of him recreating the iconic album cover for its 25th anniversary.
What has Spencer Elden said about the cover in the past?
In the past, Elden has recreated the image multiple times over the years, posing on the album’s 10th, 17th, 20th and 25th anniversaries.
In interviews, Elden has expressed mixed feelings about his involvement on the cover.
Speaking to the New York post in 2016, Elden said: “The anniversary means something to me. It’s strange that I did this for five minutes when I was four months old and it became this really iconic image… It’s cool but weird to be part of something so important that I don’t even remember.”
In an interview with Time magazine on the album’s 25th anniversary, the then 25-year-old Elden said: “I get a little upset for a bit.
“I was trying to reach out to these people. I never met anybody. I didn’t get a call or email. I just woke up already being a part of this huge project.
“It’s pretty difficult - you feel like you’re famous for nothing, but you didn’t really do anything for their album.”
He said that he recognised the album cover was “genius”, and he even has the Nevermind emblem tattooed on his chest.
However, he added: “It’s hard not to get upset when you hear about how much money was involved… [When] I go to a baseball game and think about it, “Man, everybody at this baseball game has probably seen my little baby penis”, I feel like I got part of my human rights revoked.”
What does Spencer Elden do now?
Much isn’t known about Elden’s personal life now, but from his verified Facebook page it states that he is an artist, with some of his work retailing for over $100.
He is also engaged to Angela Narie Najand.
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