Photo: Nirvana

Baby On Nirvana’s ‘Neverland’ Album Cover Sues Former Rock Band

Spencer Elden. the baby — now a man — who appears on the cover of Nirvana’s 1991 Nevermind album has filed a lawsuit against the band and others involved in the photograph, claiming the image constitutes child pornography and that he has “suffered and will continue to suffer lifelong damages” as a result of the photograph.

According to the law suit, Elden, now 30 years old, claimed that the defendants involved “knowingly produced, possessed, and advertised commercial child pornography,” that they “failed to take reasonable steps to protect Spencer and prevent his widespread sexual exploitation,” that they’ve continued “to benefit from their participation in Spencer’s commercial sexual exploitation.” That Spencer “has suffered and will continue to suffer lifelong damages” including “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.”

Elden was four months old at the time he appeared on the Nevermind cover, with the photograph taken at a pool in Pasadena, California. While non-sexualized photos of infants are typically not considered child pornography under law, the suit argues that the images of Elden are sexualized.

The defendants in the case include the two surviving members of Nirvana, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, the three people who oversee Kurt Cobain’s estate (Courtney Love, Guy Oseary, and Heather Parry), photographer Kirk Weddle, art director Robert Fisher, and various record companies and distributors. Nirvana’s former drummer Chad Channing is also listed as a defendant, even though he was not involved in Nevermind. Elden is seeking $150,000 damages from each defendant, plus other legal costs.

For instance, the suit claims that Weddle, the photographer, tried to ensure the cover would “trigger a visceral sexual response from the viewer” by activating “Spencer’s ‘gag reflex’ before throwing him underwater in poses highlighting and emphasizing Spencer’s exposed genitals.” It also claims that pairing the nude portrait with a dollar bill on a fish hook makes it look as if Spencer is being depicted “like a sex worker.”

After noting the global success of Nevermind, the suit mentions that Spencer never received any compensation for the photo and that neither he, nor his guardians, “ever signed a release authorizing the use of any images of Spencer or of his likeness, and certainly not of commercial child pornography depicting him.” (Elden’s father, Rick, who was friends with Weddle, told NPR in 2008 that the parents were paid $200 for the shoot.)

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Author: Brad LeBeau

Phtoto: Nirvana