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Nirvana by Michael Lavine
Nevermind session, Los Angeles, May 23, 1991© Michael Lavine

Nirvana’s Nevermind cover may actually be altered amid the ongoing lawsuit

Dave Grohl has hinted at alterations to the iconic naked baby artwork, following accusations of child pornography

Nirvana’s Nevermind album cover saga continues. According to Dave Grohl, the iconic artwork could be getting an update 30 years on from its original release, following the lawsuit filed by Spencer Elden — AKA the naked baby pictured on the cover — earlier this year.

In case you’re not up to date with the legal battle surrounding the Nevermind cover, Elden originally filed a lawsuit in a Los Angeles court against the surviving band members, alongside Kurt Cobain’s estate, in August this year. Taking issue with the image — an underwater baby with exposed genitalia, reaching for a dollar bill — he seeks damages for alleged child pornography and sexual exploitation.

“The images exposed Spencer’s intimate body part and lasciviously displayed Spencer’s genitals from the time he was an infant to the present day,” the filing claims. While non-sexualised images of infants are not generally considered child pornography under US law, Elden’s legal team argue that the dollar (superimposed after the photo was taken) makes the minor seem “like a sex worker”.

It’s also claimed that Nirvana originally promised to cover the baby’s genitals with a sticker reading: “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet paedophile.”

Acknowledging the lawsuit in a new interview with the Sunday Times, Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl suggests that the legal trouble is nothing new, saying: “At some point, unfortunately, it just becomes par for the course.”

However, he does suggest that it might lead to an update of the album artwork, while staying fairly vague about the potential form that new iterations could take. “I have many ideas of how we should alter that cover,” he says, “but we’ll see what happens.”

Asked for more details, he teases: “We’ll let you know… I’m sure we’ll come up with something good.”

In August, several legal experts noted that Spencer Elden’s lawsuit is likely to be dismissed. The case is “ridiculous”, says one lawyer, adding that the right to privacy is waived “by his parents’ actions in allowing him to be photographed”.

Another lawyer adds that Elden’s embrace of the cover in the past — which has seen him recreate it several times as an adult — harms his case. “Depending on which federal judge this case is assigned to downtown, plaintiff’s counsel is likely going to be in for a very rough ride,” he says. “Sanctions are a definite possibility.”