A month after suing Nirvana for child pornography, Spencer Elden is now asking the iconic Nevermind cover featuring him as a 4-month-old baby be censored. Elden, naked and reaching for dollar bills in 1991’s iconic album cover, is shown floating in a swimming pool. Elden’s attorneys requested that Nirvana remove his genitalia from Friday.
“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,” Elden’s attorneys wrote in a statement to USA Today. “This is a choice that he has never had.” Nevermind, which includes the hits “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come as You Are,” was released on Sept. 24, 1991.
In Friday’s statement, Elden’s attorneys wrote that they plan to keep their legal proceedings alive to “bring long-awaited privacy and dignity back” to Elden. They went on to “implore” Nirvana to “right the wrongs of their past, by acknowledging the harm they have perpetrated and redacting the image of Mr. Elden’s genitalia from further reproductions of Nevermind because behind every cover is a person pleading for their privacy back.”
Before the 30th anniversary of Nevermind approached, Elden had publicly embraced his part in Rock history as the baby on the cover of one of the genre’s most successful albums. Elden even recreated the photo for the album’s 25th Anniversary celebrations, though this time he wore shorts. “I said to the photographer, ‘Let’s do it naked.’ But he thought that would be weird, so I wore my swim shorts,” Elden told the New York Post at the time. The original Nevermind cover was photographed by Kirk Weddle, who was friends with Elden’s parents. Edlen explained that the cover was paid $200 to Edlen.
Elden’s view of the cover has changed over time. Elden filed a lawsuit against Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic in Los Angeles Federal Court. He accused them of knowingly producing, possessing, and advertising “commercial child pornography” with the Nevermind cover. Elden claimed he will suffer “lifelong damages” because of the album cover.
“(The) defendants intentionally commercially marketed Spencer’s child pornography and leveraged the shocking nature of his image to promote themselves and their music at his expense,” the lawsuit read in part. “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.” Elden seeks $150,000 and a trial by jury from 17 defendants. These include former members of Elden’s band, their record label, photographer, cover designer, and Courtney Love, who is the executor of Cobain’s estate.