Nirvana’s 1991 Nevermind album stands as one of the most popular albums of the 90s grunge scene, with iconic anthems such as Come As you Are, Dumb, and of course, Smells Like Teen Spirit. The cover is instantly recognizable and some would say controversial. Spencer Elden, the man who appeared on the cover of this album as a baby, and previously recreated the cover when he was 17 in 2008, and again aged 25 in 2016, is now in fact suing the band three decades on with alleged child pornography charges.
30-year-old Elden has filed a complaint at Los Angeles federal court, and the papers argue that the plaintiff’s image in a swimming pool chasing a dollar bill is child sexual exploitation and violates federal child pornography statutes. The court documents, name various defendants including Nevermind album cover photographer Kirk Weddle, various record companies, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Chad Channing, and Courtney Love (as executor of Kurt Cobain’s estate).
Elden alleges he has suffered and continues to suffer “lifelong damages” as a result of the album cover, and says his legal guardians never signed a release “authorizing the use of any images of Spencer or of his likeness, and certainly not of commercial child pornography depicting him.” According to the lawsuit, Elden says the defendants ‘knowingly produced, possessed, and advertised commercial child pornography depicting Spencer, and they knowingly received value in exchange for doing so.’
Furthermore, the lawsuit states: ‘The permanent harm he has proximately suffered includes but is not limited to 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 and other losses to be described and proven at trial of this matter.’
Elden is seeking damages of either £109,000 from each of the 17 defendants, or unspecified damages to be determined at trial. He is also seeking attorney fees, an injunction to prohibit all parties “from continuing to engage in the unlawful acts and practices described herein” and a trial by jury.
Spencer Elden was four months old in 1991 when he was photographed submerged in a swimming pool for the ‘Nevermind’ artwork.