(NEXSTAR) – Nirvana’s 1991 album “Nevermind” is back in the news thanks to a lawsuit filed by Spencer Elden, the now-grown man whose baby photo graces the album’s cover art.
Elden, 30, filed the lawsuit on Tuesday, alleging that the photo — in which he’s depicted naked, underwater and swimming toward a dollar bill on a fish hook — constitutes child pornography. He’s seeking $150,000 from each of the 17 named defendants, which include the band members, record executives and Courtney Love, the former wife of late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, Variety reported.
Elden also claims his parents were only compensated $200 for the rights to the photo but never actually signed a release, though a representative for the named defendants has not responded publicly.
It is well documented, however, that Geffen Records at least expressed some concern when they saw the proposed album artwork back in 1991. According to a band biographer Michael Azerrad, who wrote “Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana,” Geffen’s art director Robert Fisher was even preparing to airbrush the infant’s genitals from the photo to alleviate the sales’ department’s concerns.
Cobain responded with a suggestion of his own: placing a sticker over the baby’s penis. But not just any sticker — Cobain specifically conceived of a sticker reading, “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile.” Elden’s lawsuit, too, mentions this quote directly.
The record was ultimately released without the sticker, and Cobain even claimed that the now-defunct Parents Music Resource Center (responsible for the Parental Advisory stickers included on explicit albums) didn’t really have a problem with the photo, per an archived interview with Hot Metal cited by Snopes.
The album cover went on to become one of the most iconic of all time. Elden, too, appeared to embrace his contribution, recreating the pose several times for the album’s anniversaries.
At times, however, he admitted to at least feeling “creepy” upon realizing so many people have seen him naked.
“I feel like I’m the world’s biggest porn star,” he told MTV in 2007.