With the lights out, it’s less dangerous, and here he is now, to litigate us. Spencer Elden, best known as the naked baby on the cover art of Nirvana’s 1991 album, Nevermind, has filed a lawsuit against the band. Spencer, now 30, claims the band violated “violated federal child pornography statutes and argues child sexual exploitation,” per Pitchfork. Elden claims he’s suffered “lifelong damages” and says his legal guardians never signed a release “authorizing the use of any images of Spencer or his likeness, and certainly not of commercial child pornography depicting him.”
Elden is seeking $150,000 in damages from each of the defendants, per NPR, which includes members of the band (Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic), Kurt Cobain’s estate, photographer Kirk Weddle, Universal Music, Geffen Records, Warner Records, and MCA Music. “The permanent harm he has proximately suffered includes but is not limited to extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations, interference with his normal development and educational progress, lifelong loss of income earning capacity, loss of past and future wages, past and future expenses for medical and psychological treatment, loss of enjoyment of life, and other losses to be described and proven at trial of this matter,” the lawsuit states (h/t Pitchfork.) With Nevermind turning on Sept. 24, 2021, it seems that this lawsuit has arrived just in time, so here’s what you need to know about Spencer Elden.
Spencer Elden Is An Artist
…or, he was described as one in a 2016 interview with Time magazine, conducted in celebration of Nevermind’s 25th anniversary. Spencer was described as living in “Los Angeles with his mother and [focusing] on making art and growing tomatoes.” He also spoke about his relationship with the album. “Looking back, it feels kind of stupid doing interviews about it, because I had nothing to do with it, but a lot to do with it all at the same time,” he told Time. “It’s a really weird feeling being a part of someone else’s momentum—being caught up in this wake of stuff.”
How Did Spencer End Up As The ‘Nevermind’ Baby?
Photographer Kirk Weddle was friends with Spencer’s father, Rick. Weddle attempted to create the shot while photographing babies at a swimming class, but none of the images fit what Geffen records was looking for. “[Weddle] calls us up and was like, ‘Hey Rick, wanna make 200 bucks and throw your kid in the drink,’” Spencer’s father told NPR in 2008. “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!”
Did Spencer Ever Meet Nirvana?
Spencer says he’s never connected with the surviving members of the band and that prior attempts to contact Dave and Krist have been unsuccessful. Dave told TMZ in 2013 that he never met Spencer. “We weren’t there the day that they did the photoshoot, so I don’t know. I’ve seen him in magazines and stuff.”
Spencer Has Recreated The ‘Nevermind’ Photo A Number Of Times.
In 2008, Spencer jumped into a pool to recreate the image. In 2016, he recreated the image a second time (with both instances, he wore swim trunks instead of posing naked.) “The anniversary means something to me. It’s strange that I did this for five minutes when I was 4 months old, and it became this really iconic image,” he told the New York Post in 2016. “It’s cool but weird to be part of something so important that I don’t even remember.” When asked about what it’s like having so many people see him naked, Spencer told the Post, “I have to think it’s not me, or something, but it’s a trip…it’d be nice to have a quarter for every person that has seen my baby penis.”
He Has A Complicated Relationship With The Album.
When Spencer was 17, he seemed fine with being the icon of a generation. “Quite a few people in the world have seen my penis,” he told NPR in 2008. “So that’s kinda cool. I’m just a normal kid living it up and doing the best I can while I’m here.” However, while speaking with GQ Australia in 2016, he said that “it’s f-cked up. I’m pissed about it.” He said his attitude changed “just a few months ago” in 2016, “when I was reaching out to Nirvana to see if they wanted to be part of my art show. I was getting referred to their managers and their lawyers. Why am I still on their cover if I’m not that big of a deal?”
“I was trying to do an art show with the photographer who took the picture. I was asking if they wanted to put a piece of art in the fucking thing,” he said. Though Spencer has the word “Nevermind” tattooed on his chest, he told the Post in 2016 that he prefers The Clash and told Methodshop in 2011 that he enjoys listening to The Dead Weather, The Fold, The Kills. “I’m listening to the Talking Heads, Crystal Castles, Lykke Li. That’s just some stuff I’ve been listening to lately. I like a lot of music. I just listen to music all day long while I do art work.”