The estate of Nirvana is being sued over the artwork on the groundbreaking album, Nevermind. The litigant is the baby photographed on the cover.
Nirvana’s Nevermind is credited with changing the face of popular music forever. But nearly 30 years after its release, the album is now the subject of a sticky lawsuit.
According to a legal complaint obtained by Digital Music News, the person suing the Nirvana estate is the grown-up baby photographed on the cover. Spencer Elden, who is now 30, is also suing the photographer of the cover, Kirk Weddle, the album’s art director Robert Fisher, as well as Geffen Records, Nirvana LLC, the Estate of Kurt Cobain, the surviving members of Nirvana (including Dave Grohl), Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, and several others.
The lawsuit claims that Nirvana, Weddle, the labels, and others engaged in “commercial child pornography” and a “sex trafficking venture” by featuring the four-month-old Elden on the cover. They are also accused of “violations of federal criminal child pornography statutes.”
“Defendants knowingly produced, possessed, and advertised commercial child pornography depicting Spencer, and they knowingly received value in exchange for doing so,” the suit states.
Elden is seeking damages of “all profits and unjust enrichment” from the album. Nevermind has sold more than 10 million albums in the United States alone.
Elden was actually the son of Weddle’s friend, Rick Elden.
Back in 1991, Rick agreed to feature his son on the cover for a modest $200 sum. He was later rewarded with a platinum version of the album by Geffen Records and a place in musical history. That sounded like a friendly deal, though the young Elden obviously didn’t consent to the photoshoot. Accordingly, the lawsuit alleges that Elden “was forced to engage in commercial sexual acts while under the age of 18 years old.”
“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,” the lawsuit claims.
The suit also recounts the history of how the album cover concept came together. Kurt Cobain played a critical role in conceptualizing the cover and demanded that Elden’s genitalia remain in the image. But Elden’s lawsuit depicts Cobain as a crude and exploitative sex trafficker, instead of a grunge rocker looking to shock an audience. “Cobain chose the image depicting Spencer — like a sex worker — grabbing for a dollar bill that is positioned dangling from a fishhook in front of his nude body with his penis explicitly displayed,” the lawsuit states.
[Robert] Fisher admired “[t]he positioning, the look on the baby’s face, the way that his arms were stretched out like he was reaching for something.”
Weddle was also described as a depraved participant in the cover-creation process. “In 1991, Weddle, a photographer, took explicit photos of Spencer, who was then a 4-month-old baby, in a pool at the Pasadena Aquatic Center in Pasadena, California,” the suit explains. “Weddle took a series of sexually graphic nude photographs of Spencer.”
“To ensure the album cover would trigger a visceral sexual response from the viewer, Weddle activated Spencer’s ‘gag reflex’ before throwing him underwater in poses highlighting and emphasizing Spencer’s exposed genitals.”
Interestingly, Elden has done numerous retakes of the album cover as an adult over the years.
He even tattooed ‘Nevermind’ on his chest. That suggested that Elden had embraced the cover and his role in rock history. But a GQ interview in 2016 revealed a change of heart: “It’s f—ked up,” Elden stated, referring to the cover. “I’m pissed off about it, to be honest.”
In the same interview, Elden revealed that surviving members of Nirvana seemed uninterested in participating in an art show he was hosting. He also noted that he doesn’t receive any royalties from the shoot.
Elden filed the suit with attorney Robert Y. Lewis of Marsh Law Firm PLLC.
The world . . .has gone truly nuts . . .(NPI)
Funny, I dont see his parents listed as defendants.
That was my thought also.
My thoughts exactly! The article even mentions the dad was paid, so how is he exempt. Really, they’re the main ones to blame as they gave consent.
I just can’t … utterly ridiculous.
Somebody didn’t get a participation trophy. Now someone needs to pay !
Article notes “Defendants knowingly produced, possessed, and advertised commercial child pornography depicting Spencer, and they knowingly received value in exchange for doing so,” From a legal standpoint, Plaintiff needs to prove all the accusations noted and with 1 of the defendants no longer alive to defend himself. Unless the thought processes were documented somewhere + 30 years ? It will be a tall order to get any of the remaining defendants to admit to any of the accusations. Sometimes being truthful means saying, “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.” Then there also is the “hearsay rule” which this story appears full of.
You put a greased naked woman on all fours with a dog collar around her neck, and a leash, and a man’s arm extended out up to here, holding onto the leash, and pushing a black glove in her face to sniff it. You don’t find that offensive? You don’t find that sexist?
This is 1982. Get over it.
Please post a link. That is fantastic!
No I don’t find it sexist. It may be in poor taste, but that is all. What is a female rock band had the same cover with the roles reversed?
This case which your comment has zero to do with, is a case about nothing.
The best the plaintive can hope for is some shut up and go away money.
The allegations are pure rubbish. A photo of a naked baby is only sexual in the most depraved mind.
I’m told the water & dollar bill will sue next for being exposed to a baby’s penis
i think he’s right and got a good case it appears exactly as he stated sad others cant see it and think only of money
child trafficking is real and this explains a lot about the cover i never saw it but now i do
Explains a lot about run-on sentences, too.
If you’re hearing dog whistles then you’re the dog.
The irony that the baby chasing a buck in the pool grows up and tries to chase a buck with a frivolous lawsuit.
Trying to calculate just how much in damages this lawsuit is seeking; “all profits and unjust enrichment” from a Diamond-certified album is a king’s ransom. Throw all the merchandise and related earnings and it’s even more.
There are no damages here. This lawsuit is frivolous and a waste of the court’s time. It will be tossed out. You watch.
Sounds to me like it is a name/image/likeness lawsuit. Individuals do not “sue” for crimes.
I hope there is a statute of limitations that ends this nonsense quickly. The L’il Pecker turned 18 12 years ago; why didn’t he sue then? I guess he just learned he was offended through therapy.
Why is the baby being such a dick?
Kudos to your comment. This is nothing but a junk lawsuit.
All I can say is if he is actually suffering mentally due to the cover art, then he deserves something from this lawsuit. However, it does seem pretty outrageous the way the people involved were described, the way shock is used in the music industry can be quite confusing and at times completely out of line, but it helps with publicity. I don’t think they were taking this images in a sexual way, they just wanted a certain reaction for the album cover.
Any suffering is recently conjured rubbish. I think someone planted a thought and it grew out of control.
That said, I think the original $200 offered to the dad was a tad light. A couple of grand toward future school for the kid, or something, but the dad took the deal offered.
At best an undisclosed settlement. If it goes to trial it will get tossed.
He’s obviously just butthurt that he’s not making royalties. Sounds like a snowflake situation to me.