Entertainment The Nevermind baby is still chasing after those Nirvana dollars
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The Nevermind baby is still chasing after those Nirvana dollars

Nevermind
Spencer Elden, who turns 31 in February, sued the band over claims of child pornography. Photo: John Chapple and Universal Music
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Spencer Elden, otherwise known as the naked baby on Nirvana’s Nevermind album cover, has sued the band for a second time. 

Mr Elden, who turns 31 in February, made headlines in August after he sued the band over claims the cover constituted child pornography.

His lawsuit claimed that Nirvana had dabbled in a “sex trafficking enterprise” by distributing the iconic photograph around the world. 

On January 3, Judge Fernando M. Olguin binned the lawsuit, but he left the door open for Mr Elden to refile an amended version. 

That he did. 

Man v Nirvana 2.0 

According to court documents obtained by Rolling Stone, Mr Elden filed his amended lawsuit late on Wednesday, meeting a deadline set by the judge to reinstate the claims. 

In the new filing, Mr Elden doubled down on his claim that Nirvana, Kurt Cobain’s estate and the album cover photographer Kirk Weddle “intentionally commercially marketed the child pornography”. 

He claimed the defendants “leveraged the lascivious nature of his image to promote the Nevermind album, the band and Nirvana’s music, while earning, at a minimum, tens of millions of dollars in the aggregate”. 

He did, however, drop his claim related to sex trafficking. 

In his original lawsuit, Mr Elden alleged he has suffered and will continue to suffer “life-long damages” after he was pictured as a naked four-month-old in a swimming pool grabbing for a dollar bill.

Nevermind, which gave us Smells Like Teen Spirit and Come As You Are, is arguably one of the most recognisable album covers in the industry.

His lawyers are seeking at least $US150,000 ($206,000) in damages from each of the 15 defendants, plus legal fees.

A changing mind

Nirvana’s lawyers have argued that Mr Elden’s past behaviour, such as selling autographed copies of the cover and recreating the photo as an adult, proved he didn’t suffer any damages. 

The original shoot took 15 seconds and Mr Elden’s father told NPR he was paid $200 for it.

The album went on to sell more than 30 million copies worldwide.

In 2015, Mr Elden told The Guardian that he struggled to wrap his head around such a culturally significant image, but acknowledged it had “always been a positive thing and opened doors” for him. 

Mr Elden said that it helped his career as an artist and prompted women to approach him.

At the time, he said he wanted to re-enact the shot in the nude. 

“Why not? I think it would be fun,” he told The Guardian. 

Mr Elden recreated the photo shoot at least twice, including in 2016 to celebrate the album’s 25th anniversary.

He wore shorts, though. 

“I said to the photographer, ‘Let’s do it naked.’ But he thought that would be weird, so I wore my swim shorts,” Mr Elden said to the New York Post

But he soon told Time that he was frustrated he had never received any sort of compensation. 

He tried to pursue legal action that year but was unsuccessful. 

“It’s hard not to get upset when you hear how much money was involved,” he told Time. 

By the next year, Mr Elden was even angrier.

He told GQ Australia in 2017 that he contacted Nirvana to see if they wanted to be part of his art show. He was referred to their managers and lawyers instead. 

“Why am I still on the cover if I’m not that big of a deal?” 

Mr Elden said being the Nevermind baby and not receiving any sort of money from it affected his relationships.

He claimed women would dump him after finding out he hadn’t received a penny from the band.

As an artist, Mr Elden doubted his ability to create anything better than the album cover.

“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,” he told GQ. 

“It’s a complicated thing.”