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Nirvana by Michael Lavine
New York City, January 11, 1992© Michael Lavine

The baby on Nirvana’s Nevermind cover was also ‘depicted as Hugh Hefner’

New amendments to Spencer Elden’s lawsuit against the band also cite entries from Kurt Cobain’s personal journals

The 30-year-old man (and former baby) who appeared on Nirvana’s Nevermind album cover has amended his lawsuit against the band, including new details about Kurt Cobain’s alleged vision for the artwork.

Spencer Elden originally filed the lawsuit — against surviving members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, the managers of Cobain’s estate, Cobain’s former wife Courtney Love, and the album cover photographer Kirk Weddle — in a Los Angeles court on August 24, alleging that the image of an underwater naked baby constituted child pornography and sexual exploitation.

Amid the ongoing dispute, his lawyer, Robert Lewis, has now filed an amended suit (obtained by Digital Music News) maintaining the original claims that the defendants “failed to take reasonable steps to protect Spencer and prevent his widespread sexual exploitation and image trafficking”.

However, the amended court documents add a claim that Kirk Weddle took more photos of Elden following the iconic photoshoot, styled as Playboy founder Hugh Hefner. “Weddle soon after produced photographs of Spencer dressed up and depicted as Hugh Hefner,” the statement reads, with no further context.

Claiming to have suffered “extreme and permanent emotional distress”, Elden is seeking $150,000 per defendant, as well as coverage of attorney’s fees and a trial by jury. In the new filing, Nirvana drummer Chad Channing, Warner Music, Heather Parry and Guy Oseary (previously listed as managers of the Cobain estate) have been removed as defendants.

Other new amendments to the lawsuit include sections from Kurt Cobain’s personal journals, which were published in 2002. “Undated journals written by Cobain sketch the album cover in a sexual manner, with semen all over it,” reads part of the filing.

It goes on to include a disturbing quote, though it’s unclear how directly it is related to the album cover. “In several instances, the journals describe Cobain’s twisted vision for the Nevermind album cover, along with his emotional struggles: ‘I like to make incisions into the belly of infants then fuck the incision until the child dies.’”

After Elden’s initial filing in August, legal experts suggested that his case was likely to be thrown out, citing the fact that non-sexualised photos of infants are generally not considered child pornography under US law. His previous embrace of the Nirvana album cover — including recreations as an adult, and even a tattoo of its title — is also thought to damage his argument.

“At some point, unfortunately, it just becomes par for the course,” said Cobain’s bandmate Dave Grohl of the legal trouble last month. However, he did add that the Nevermind cover could be reworked in the future, saying: “I have many ideas of how we should alter that cover, but we’ll see what happens.”

Earlier this month, an expansive 30th anniversary reissue of Nevermind arrived, complete with the original album artwork.