- Publish Date
- Sunday, 29 August 2021, 11:10AM
Nirvana's iconic Nevermind album cover has been thrust back into the spotlight almost 30 years after it was released.
The naked baby featured on the cover is Spencer Elden, who is now 30. He's just filed a lawsuit in the US against Kurt Cobain's estate and the band's surviving members, accusing them of child exploitation.
He claims the band agreed to cover his genitals with a sticker when the album was released, and that he has suffered lifelong damage because they failed to do so.
"Nirvana exploited me when I was a baby to sell their music, but there is a person behind every image," Mr Elden told TMZ.
"I'm just asking the band to do what they should have done 30 years ago and redact my genitals from the image out of respect for my privacy."
Mr Elden wants each of the people/estates named in his lawsuit to pay him more than $200,000 each.
The Nevermind album cover was designed by Robert Fisher, who worked for Geffen Records at the time.
Fisher said Kurt Cobain (who died in 1994) had a vision in mind for it.
"Kurt wanted a baby being born underwater," Fisher said, according to Milanote. "Back then before the internet you would have to go down to the local bookstore and go through child birthing books and try to find photos. So that's what I did. But it was just like … there's no way we can make an album cover out of this. I couldn't find any really good pictures and they were all way too graphic to use."
Eventually they decided to take their own photo for the cover, so they hired a photographer named Kirk Weddle who specialised in "submerged human" pictures.
"We hired Kirk to shoot the photos at the Pasadena aquatic centre," Fisher said. "He got four or five different parents to come down and lend us their babies and take turns passing them in front of the camera. If you look closely at the final image you can see the parent's handprint on the baby's chest where they were holding it right before they passed it.
"A week later I got a couple of proof sheets back, maybe 40 or 50 shots," he said. "There was just one that was absolutely perfect. The positioning, the look on the baby's face, the way that his arms were stretched out like he was reaching for something – everything about it was just perfect. That's the one I picked."
Fisher was aware that the baby's exposed penis could be an issue and he made a note for the band and record executives that said: "If anyone has a problem with his dick we can remove it."
Cobain also realised there could be an issue with the nudity and suggested they could cover the baby's genitals if they had to.
"We prepared to alleviate that problem if anyone were to freak out about it by putting a sticker on it saying, 'If you are offended by this, you must be a closet paedophile,'" Cobain told Hot Metal in 1991.
Nevermind was a massive hit for Nirvana, selling more than 30 million copies worldwide. But Elden has never been thrilled about the fact his penis was shown without his consent.
"I got a little upset for a bit," he told Time Magazine in 2016. "I just woke up already being a part of this huge project. It's pretty difficult – you feel like you're famous for nothing, but you didn't really do anything but their album."
Elden told Time he had considered suing the band before.
"Everyone involved in the album has tons and tons of money," he said. "I'm living in my mum's house and driving a Honda Civic.
"It's hard not to get upset when you hear how much money was involved," he said. "[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."
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission