The Nevermind baby is suing Nirvana for "child pornography"

A crop of Nirvana's Nevermind cover
(Image credit: Geffen Records)

Spencer Elden, who appeared naked on the cover of Nirvana's Nevermind album as a four-month-old baby, is suing the members of Nirvana as well as Courtney Love, photographer Kirk Weddle, and various record labels.

The lawsuit was lodged at District Court in the Central District of California by Robert Y. Lewis of Marsh Law Firm PLLC. According to a biography page on his company website, Lewis specialises in representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse. 

Amongst the allegations made in the court documents are that the band "knowingly produced, possessed, and advertised commercial child pornography depicting Spencer, and they knowingly received value in exchange for doing so," and that "the Defendants failed to take reasonable steps to protect Spencer and prevent his widespread sexual exploitation and image trafficking."

The suit also alleges that, "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."

It goes on to cite other examples of such album covers, including Scorpions' Virgin Killer, Blind Faith's self-titled debut, and Balance by Van Halen

Upon its release in 1991, several major US record chains refused to stock Nevermind, and frontman Kurt Cobain only agreed to the artwork being censored if any covering sticker read: ‘If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet paedophile’. The cover remained unstickered, but it has continued to ruffle feathers: Back in 2011, the Nevermind artwork was briefly banned by Facebook.

In 2016 Elden hooked up with the New York Post to recreate the iconic photo on its 25th anniversary. 

He told the newspaper, "The anniversary means something to me. It’s strange that I did this for five minutes when I was four months old and it became this really iconic image. It’s cool but weird to be part of something so important that I don’t even remember."

The same month he told Australian GQ Magazine, "I’ve been going through it my whole life. But recently I’ve been thinking, ‘What if I wasn’t OK with my freaking penis being shown to everybody?’ I didn’t really have a choice."

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.