Amended Nirvana Lawsuit Claims Baby Was Dressed Up As ‘Playboy’ Founder Hugh Hefner For Cover Shoot

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nirvana nevermind album cover baby swimming

The controversy surrounding the world-famous album cover for one of the most popular albums of the 90s — 'Nevermind' by Nirvana — is continuing in an amended lawsuit filed by Spencer Elden.

Elden, who was photographed naked as a four-month-old baby, features on the famous cover but has been taking aim at Nirvana in a lawsuit that is seeking over $100,000 in damages.

In the amended suit, Elden also claims he was dressed up and photographed as 'Playboy' founder Hugh Hefner. 

Since its conception, the album cover was met with a lot of controversy — from the label and the public — and now from the baby on the album cover himself.

This follows rumors that Nirvana's 'Nevermind' album cover had generated controversy on TikTok. 

It appears a new generation looks less favorably on the controversial album cover and the star of the cover agrees. 

Why is the baby from the 'Nevermind' album cover suing Nirvana?

Spencer Elden, who is now 30-years-old, is suing Nirvana for child exploitation and child pornography and claims the band knowlingly distributed and profited from his naked images. 

Elden asking for $150,000 in damages from each of the defendants, which originally included members of the band, Kurt Cobain's estate, photographer Kirk Weddle, Universal Music, Geffen Records, and MCA Music. 

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In the amended version of the lawsuit, the band's drummer Chad Channing is no longer a defendant. Warner Group was also removed along with two managers of Cobain's estate. 

The suit maintains that the defendants “failed to take reasonable steps to protect Spencer and prevent his widespread sexual exploitation and image trafficking.”

Elden's parents reportedly never signed a release to authorize the use of the image and Elden claims he never received compensation. 

The lawsuit claims that the images were intended "trigger a visceral sexual response from the viewer" by triggering “Spencer’s 'gag reflex' before throwing him underwater and took photos that highlighted and emphasized Spencer’s exposed genitals."

The recently amended lawsuit, Elden also claimsm with no additional context, that “Weddle soon after produced photographs of Spencer dressed up and depicted as Hugh Hefner.”

Journal entries credited to Kurt Cobain were also included in the filing.

Entries allegedly made by Cobain, present a “sketch [of] the album cover in a sexual manner, with semen all over it.”

“In several instances,” the suit reads, “the journals describe Cobain’s twisted vision for the Never mind [sic] album cover, along with his emotional struggles: ‘I like to make incisions into the belly of infants then f—ck the incision until the child dies.'”

Why were people trying to cancel Nirvana's 'Nevermind' album cover?

There are multiple reasons why cancel culture and Elden are now targeting Nirvana’s album cover.

As per Elden's lawsuit, the naked baby could be considered "child pornography" and should not be allowed to be on the cover of an album for that purpose.

It is for this reason that Facebook previously removed the cover from its platform for violating the terms of use.

In 2011, fans of the band who were sharing the image for the album's 20th anniversary received a warning message from Facebook.

“Facebook does not allow photos that attack an individual or group, or that contain nudity, drug use, violence or other violations of the Terms of Use,” it reads. But outrage or administrative errors led the platform to allow the image back on the site days later. 

What did Kurt Cobain say about child pornography concerns for the ‘Nevermind’ cover?

But the accusation of child pornography would likely be contested by lead singer Kurt Cobain if he were alive today.

Cobain reportedly fought with his label to keep the uncensored version of the photo on the cover at the time of 'Nevermind's' release. 

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And when asked to removed it, he allegedly said he would only give in on the condition that a sticker that read: “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet paedophile” would appear on the cover.  

Though, Cobain's defence occured at a time before Elden could speak for himself so perhaps Elden is the only voice we should be listening to on the subject today. 

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Originally, Cobain got the idea after watching a program on water births, but the label didn’t like the ‘water birth cover’ idea, so instead Cobain went for the swimming baby option.

Stock photos for swimming babies went for $7500, so they decided to make their own, and that’s how the ‘Nevermind’ album cover came to be.

Instead of paying over $7000, they instead paid the parents $200 to take the photo of their child.

Spencer Elden has previously addressed the 'Nevermind' album cover. 

Elden has openly criticized the use of his naked baby photo on Nirvana's album which may explain why some have been spurred to cancel the 'Nevermind' cover.

“Looking back, it feels kind of stupid doing interviews about it, because I had nothing to do with it, but a lot to do with it all at the same time,” Elden told said in 2016. “It’s a really weird feeling being a part of someone else’s momentum — being caught up in this wake of stuff.”

The group never reached out to him, even though he tried to reach out to them, and it upset him for a while, but as a way of realizing his role and coming to terms with it, he got the name of the album tattoed across his chest. That said, he still didn't seem totally satisfied with the lack of acknowledgment or compensation from the band.

“Nirvana’s cool, I guess—it’s just weird being a part of it,” he said.

Now, judging by his lawsuit against Nirvana, Elden wants the band to be held accountable or, at the very least, receive compensation for his images. 

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Isaac Serna-Diez is a writer who focuses on entertainment and news, social justice and relationships.