A naked baby helped Nirvana sell millions of records. Now 30, he’s suing the band for ‘child pornography.’

The Washington Post

Spencer Elden may very well be the most famous naked baby the world has ever seen.

A photo of him as an infant — submerged in water and seemingly chasing a dollar bill dangling from a fish hook — became the cover of Nirvana’s 1991 release “Nevermind,” considered one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

Three decades later, Elden is now claiming the album cover is child pornography.

The suit alleges that all were involved in making child pornography and benefited from “the sex-trafficking venture and Spencer’s exploitation” that was the distribution of “Nevermind.”

His attitudes about it have changed, too.

In 2008, as a teenager, he told NPR: “Quite a few people in the world have seen my penis,” he said. “So that’s [kind of] cool. I’m just a normal kid living it up and doing the best I can while I’m here.”

Over the next eight years, his outlook soured. In 2016, Elden did several interviews when he was in his mid-20s on the 25th anniversary of the “Nevermind” release.

In one with GQ, Elden said he was angry about being defined by something he had no control over. In another with Time, he said “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 said some people think it’s cool that he’s “the Nirvana baby.” But, he added, women he dated would dump him when they found out he wasn’t making any money off it. And having friends talk about the naked photo was embarrassing, especially without any compensation to offset that humiliation, he said.

While Elden has struggled financially, he said, others have and are still making millions off something he helped create — even if he didn’t have a say in what was created.

“It’s a trip. Everyone involved in the album has tons and tons of money. I feel like I’m the last little bit of grunge rock,” he told Time in 2016. “I’m living in my mom’s house and driving a Honda Civic.”

Elden is seeking at least $150,000 from each of the 15 named defendants in the lawsuit, legal fees and other unspecified damages.

In the GQ article, Elden also addressed an issue more closely tied to the lawsuit he filed Tuesday.

“I’ve been going through it my whole life. But 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.”

Perhaps sensing it had become a sore subject, the interviewer gave Elden a reprieve. They were done talking about Nirvana, he said. Time to move on to a new subject: What was he doing now? After all, Elden had become an accomplished artist in his own right.

“I’ve been doing a few art shows and paintings,” Elden said before turning back to the subject of the Nirvana album cover. “I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to do a piece of work better than that in my entire life. But I’m just trying to get it out of my head — this image of a baby chasing a dollar — and not worry about making millions of dollars.

“It’s a complicated thing.”

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