Spencer Elden, the naked swimming baby on Nirvana’s iconic 1991 album Nevermind cover, is pleading with the band on the album’s 30th anniversary to have the artwork revealing his genitalia to be altered.
While fans, next-gen artists and the landmark album’s producer Butch Vig are reflecting on the anniversary of Nevermind, which was released 30 years ago on Sept. 24, 1991, via DGC Records, Elden continues his fight over the naked photo of him as an infant. Now, he wants the image on all future reissues of the album — some of which are dropping soon — censored. The 30th anniversary editions of the album, which will be available starting Nov. 12, will feature more than 70 previously unreleased audio and video tracks. Elden and his attorneys at the Marsh Law Firm released a statement Friday about the matter, describing it as an issue of “consent,” “child pornography” and “privacy.”
“Today, like each year on this date, our client Spencer Elden has had to brace himself for renewed unwanted attention from the media and fans alike throughout the world. This is a choice that he has never had. It has been thrust upon him, and for 30 years he has dealt with its devastating and painful consequences,” reads the statement shared with Billboard.” “Our message to Nirvana is clear — redact the image of Mr. Elden’s genitalia from all future album covers.”
Billboard has reached out to Nirvana and Universal Music Group for comment.
In August, Elden’s legal team filed a federal complaint in the United States District Court in the Central District of California against Nirvana, Kurt Cobain’s estate, Universal Music Group, Warner Records, David Geffen, the photographer Kirk Weddle and others for “child pornography” and exploitation on behalf of Elden. The now 30-year-old claimed in the lawsuit that he never gave consent to the use of his image, due to just being 4 month old at the time, nor did his legal guardians, and that the grunge band had promised to cover up his genitalia with a sticker, which was never incorporated.
Since the lawsuit was filed, various lawyers familiar with entertainment law have questioned the suit. “I think it is highly unlikely that a record company would use a photograph for an album cover without verifying the existence of a release signed by the parents,” Bryan Sullivan, a partner at Early Sullivan, told The Hollywood Reporter. “But, if there is no release, it does not mean he has a claim for child pornography. As to the right of privacy, you can waive it by your actions or by his parents’ actions in allowing him to be photographed.”
Another entertainment litigator told THR: “I think what will be most troubling for any judge will be the amount of time that has elapsed since the photo was published, the fact the kid’s parents did this knowingly (more or less, but they knew the naked baby was being photographed), and the numerous times that the plaintiff himself embraced the photo and sought publicity for himself.”
Nevermind went to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, received a Grammy nomination for best alternative music album, is certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and was entered into the National Recording Registry in 2004. The critically acclaimed LP spawned the hits “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Come as You Are,” “In Bloom” and “Lithium.