Speed Reads

Isn't it Ironic

Naked baby chasing money on Nirvana's iconic 'Nevermind' album cover is suing band, claiming child pornography

Thirty years ago, Nirvana released Nevermind and quickly entered the rock 'n' roll pantheon with hits like "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Come as You Are." The album's cover depicts a baby swimming underwater, naked. On Tuesday, that baby, 30-year-old Spencer Elden, sued surviving band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, Kurt Cobain's estate and wife, a drummer who was out of the band before the album was recorded, photographer Kirk Weddle, the album's art director Robert Fisher, and a list of current and defunct record labels, claiming the photo of him on the album cover constitutes child pornography. 

Elden is seeking at least $150,000 from each defendant.

"The image has generally been understood as a statement on capitalism, as it includes the digital imposition of a dollar bill on a fishhook that the baby appears to be enthusiastically swimming toward," Variety reports. "Non-sexualized nude photos of infants are generally not considered child pornography under law." Elden's lawyer claims in the lawsuit that the addition of the dollar bill makes naked baby Elden look "like a sex worker."

"Defendants used child pornography depicting Spencer as an essential element of a record promotion scheme commonly utilized in the music industry to get attention, wherein album covers posed children in a sexually provocative manner to gain notoriety, drive sales, and garner media attention, and critical reviews," says Elden's lawsuit, filed in federal court in California. 

Elden has recreated his cover shot, with swim trunks on, for various anniversaries of Nevermind's release, and he has the album logo tattooed on his chest. But he has always maintained the only compensation he ever got was the $200 that Weddle paid his parents for the photo shoot, despite his attempts to contact Grohl, Novoselic, and others, about the issue.

Elden told Time magazine in 2016, for Nevermind's 25th anniversary, that "it's hard not to get upset when you hear how much money was involved," and 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."