A California man who appeared on the cover of Nirvana’s “Nevermind” album as an infant has filed a lawsuit against the band claiming he was the victim of child pornography.
In a complaint filed Tuesday, Spencer Elden accused Nirvana of continuing to benefit from his “commercial sexual exploitation” 30 years after the album’s release.
“Defendants knowingly produced, possessed, and advertised commercial child pornography depicting Spencer, and they knowingly received value in exchange for doing so,” reads the suit, which can be found in full here. “Despite this knowledge, Defendants failed to take reasonable steps to protect Spencer and prevent his widespread sexual exploitation and image trafficking.”
Elsewhere in the suit, Elden takes specific aim at Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, who died in 1994 and has been widely credited with having co-conceived the image with art director Robert Fisher.
“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 suit alleges.
Elden, 30, is seeking at least $150,000 from each of the 15 named defendants ― including surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic as well as Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, who remains an executor of his estate. He is also seeking legal fees and other unspecified damages.
Representatives for Love and for Universal Music, which now distributes Nirvana’s albums, did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.
Elden was four months old when Kirk Weddle photographed him for the cover of “Nevermind,” which is widely considered Nirvana’s seminal album. The photo was shot at Pasadena Aquatic Center in California and stoked a fair amount of controversy at the time given that the baby’s penis was clearly visible.
The Elden family was reportedly paid $200 for the image. “Nevermind” went on to top the Billboard 200 chart, boosted by classic singles “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Come As You Are.”
Now an artist himself, Elden has honored the milestone anniversaries of “Nevermind” by recreating the iconic pose as both a teenager and adult, albeit wearing a swimsuit.
In recent years, however, his attitude toward his unlikely fame appeared to shift. Speaking to GQ in 2016, he blasted the attention that the image continued to receive 25 years after the release of “Nevermind” as “fucked up.”
“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,” he explained.
“Friends used to bring it up more than I did because it’s not like you want to brag about your embarrassing naked photo,” he added. “It’s never really been a huge bragging right because I don’t have much to show for it.”