Dave Grohl responds to the Nirvana Nevermind cover album dispute and allegations of sexual exploitation
The 1991 Nirvana Nevermind album is one of the most recognizable album covers of all time. It shows a baby, naked underwater, swimming toward a dollar bill that’s caught on a fish hook. That baby is now 30-year-old Spencer Elden, who is now suing the surviving members of Nirvana for what he claims is sexual exploitation. He filed the suit in August 2021 and now, for the first time, a member of Nirvana — Dave Grohl — is addressing the controversy and says the band does have plans to change the image.
Elden was photographed as a four-month-old by a friend of the family for the album cover.
Since then, Elden has recreated the infamous image (with swim trunks on) for milestone anniversaries for the album, but as the 30th-anniversary of Nevermind approaches, Elden has reconsidered how he feels about his naked image on the album. In his suit, he says the image of him as a baby is “sexually graphic” — likening it to “child pornography.” Despite previous reports that have said Elden was paid $250 for appearing on the cover, his lawsuit alleges that he was never paid and his parents never signed a release allowing for the photo to be used for that purpose.
Elden also says that he’s suffered “lifelong damages” from the photo, including “extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations,” as well as loss of education, wages, and “enjoyment of life.” Elden is seeking at least $150,000 in damages from the members of Nirvana and the other defendants.
Elden actually requested in his lawsuit (via the AP) that “if there is a 30th-anniversary re-release [of the album], he wants for the entire world not to see his genitals.”
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Grohl says the band is planning to “alter” the cover for the upcoming 30th-anniversary re-release.
“I have many ideas of how we should alter that cover but we’ll see what happens,” Grohl said. “We’ll let you know. I’m sure we’ll come up with something good.”
Grohl’s only other mention of the lawsuit in the interview was as follows: “I think that there’s much more to look forward to and much more to life than getting bogged down in those kinds of things.” Though he did add that he’s “fortunately” not dealing with the nitty-gritty of the suit.
In the last thirty years, the album has sold over 30 million copies. It remains to be seen how, and if, the remaining members of Nirvana alter the cover image for the 30th anniversary which is due out on November 12, 2021.