Dave Grohl says that he hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about the recent lawsuit filed over the cover of the iconic NIRVANA album “Nevermind”.
This past August, Spencer Elden, the man who claims he was the baby featured in the image, sued the surviving members of NIRVANA as well as the estate of Kurt Cobain. Elden alleges the photo of the baby reaching for a dollar in a swimming pool violated federal child pornography statutes and argues child sexual exploitation.
Asked in a new interview with Vulture what his stance is on Elden‘s claims, Grohl said: “I don’t know that I can speak on it because I haven’t spent too much time thinking about it. I feel the same way most people do in that I have to disagree. That’s all I’ll say.”
When Vulture writer Craig Jenkins pointed out that Elden has recreated the photo several times as an adult, Grohl added: “Listen, he’s got a ‘Nevermind’ tattoo. I don’t.”
Earlier this month, Grohl said that he was open to the idea of changing the cover of “Nevermind” for any subsequent reissues of the LP. “I have many ideas of how we should alter that cover, but we’ll see what happens,” he told The Sunday Times. “We’ll let you know. I’m sure we’ll come up with something good.”
As for how the lawsuit might pan out, Grohl said that he wasn’t overly concerned. “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,” he explained. “And, fortunately, I don’t have to do the paperwork.”
A month after filing his lawsuit, Elden, who is now 30, requested his genitalia be removed from “all future album covers” on the 30th anniversary of the project.
“Today, like each year on this date, our client Spencer Elden has had to brace himself for renewed unwanted attention from the media and fans alike throughout the world,” his attorneys told USA Today. “This is a choice that he has never had.”
The attorneys said that they plan on continuing the legal proceedings in order to “bring long-awaited privacy and dignity back to our client.”
“We implore the NIRVANA defendants to right the wrongs of their past, by acknowledging the harm they have perpetrated and redacting the image of Mr. Elden‘s genitalia from further reproductions of ‘Nevermind’ because behind every cover is a person pleading for their privacy back,” they added.
A deluxe 30th-anniversary reissue of “Nevermind” is due on November 12. Pre-orders for the set still show the album with its original cover artwork.
In Elden‘s complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court, which also named photographer Kirk Weddle and the various record companies behind the album’s release, Elden claimed that his “identity and legal name are forever tied to the commercial sexual exploitation he experienced as a minor which has been distributed and sold worldwide from the time he was a baby to the present day.”
According to the suit, the defendants “knowingly produced, possessed, and advertised commercial child pornography depicting Spencer, and they knowingly received value in exchange for doing so. … Despite this knowledge, defendants failed to take reasonable steps to protect Spencer and prevent his widespread sexual exploitation and image trafficking.”
Elden claimed that his parents never signed a release authorizing the use of the photos, which were taken in a Pasadena aquatic center in 1990. He alleges that the band promised to cover his genitals with a sticker, which was never incorporated into the album art.
“To ensure the album cover would trigger a visceral sexual response from the viewer, Weddle activated Spencer‘s ‘gag reflex’ before throwing him underwater in poses highlighting and emphasizing Spencer‘s exposed genitals,” the complaint stated.
The suit further alleged the defendants “used child pornography depicting Spencer as an essential element of a record promotion scheme commonly utilized in the music industry to get attention, wherein album covers posed children in a sexually provocative manner to gain notoriety, drive sales, and garner media attention, and critical reviews.”
Elden is seeking damages of either $150,000 from each of the 17 defendants or unspecified damages to be determined at trial, attorney fees, an injunction to prohibit all parties “from continuing to engage in the unlawful acts and practices described herein,” and a trial by jury.
“The permanent harm he has proximately suffered includes but is not limited to extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations, interference with his normal development and educational progress, lifelong loss of income earning capacity, loss of past and future wages, past and future expenses for medical and psychological treatment, loss of enjoyment of life, and other losses to be described and proven at trial of this matter,” the lawsuit stated.
Elden‘s parents were reportedly paid only $200 for the photos, and the shoot lasted around 15 seconds.
In a 2016 interview with Time magazine, Elden said: “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. I’m living in my mom’s house and driving a Honda Civic.
“It’s hard not to get upset when you hear how much money was involved,” Elden added. “I go to a baseball game and think about it: ‘Man, everybody at this baseball game has probably seen my little baby penis,’ I feel like I got part of my human rights revoked.”
“Nevermind” has sold over 30 million copies worldwide and was certified diamond by the RIAA for sales in excess of 10 million copies in the U.S. alone.