The album nevermind, the second released by the band Nirvana in 1991, sold 30 million copies worldwide. He was not only known for his famous songs, like Smells Like Teen Spirit, eat as you are and Lithium, but also for the cover, which has the image of a naked baby swimming towards a bill of money.
The baby in the photo is Spencer Elden, an American who is now 30 years old. Elden, who was too young to remember any details from the photo shoot, is now suing the band for child pornography. In a copy of the file, obtained by the magazine Variety, it is alleged that the defendants involved in the cover, using the image, exploited the child to get public attention and boost sales.
The use of nude baby photos without sexual connotation is not considered child pornography under US law, but Robert Y. Lewis, Elden’s lawyer, argues that including the dollar in the image makes the baby look like a “sex worker.” The defense seeks damages of $150,000 from every defendant involved in the lawsuit, from band survivors Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, to the various existing or defunct record labels that have distributed the album over the past few decades. It was even left to the band’s original drummer, Chad Channing, who left the group in 1990, before the photo was taken and the album was released.
The click was made when Elden was just four months old. In 2008, his father spoke to National Public Radio in the US about the episode. The responsible says that he received a call from Kirk Weddle, photographer and family friend, inviting him to the Rose Bowl aquatic center in California. There, baby Elden would pose for some photos in exchange for US$ 200. According to the process, no terms of authorization for the use of the image were signed.
The family didn’t know where the images ended until two months later, when they stumbled upon the record on the wall of the Tower Records retail store. At the age of one, Elden received a platinum record and a teddy bear from Geffen Records. In previous interviews, the American said that he went to Grohl and Novoselic to question their rights in a friendly way, but he never got back.
Elden seems to have lived through conflicting times due to his precocious fame. Despite having tattooed “Nevermind” on his chest and having recreated the album cover on several occasions (always in shorts), in 2016 he told the tabloid New York Post who was not so pleased with his notoriety. “It’s hard not to get upset when you hear how much money was involved… [Quando] I go to a baseball game and think about it: ‘Dude, everyone in this game has probably seen my little baby penis,’ I feel like part of my human rights has been revoked.”