Dave Grohl has spoken out after he and his Nirvana bandmates were sued for the alleged sexual exploitation of a minor on the cover of their Nevermind album.
Spencer Elden — who appeared naked as a baby on the cover of the 1991 album — filed a lawsuit against the band in August, claiming that the nude image of him, which has since become one of the most globally recognizable album covers in history, constitutes “child pornography.”
Elden was 4 months old when he was photographed naked by a family friend for the album cover. The photo depicts him underwater in a swimming pool with his arms reaching out, grasping for a dollar bill that is being dangled in front of him from a fishing line.
In the legal documents obtained by Variety, Elden alleged that his “true 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.”
The 30-year-old claims that he has suffered a number of “lifelong damages” as a result of the artwork, including “extreme and permanent emotional distress,” “interference with his normal development and educational progress,” and “medical and psychological treatment.”
The lawsuit also states the claim that Nirvana “intentionally commercially marketed Spencer’s child pornography and leveraged the shocking nature of his image to promote themselves and their music at his expense.”
As a result, Elden is asking for $150,000 in damages from each of the 15 defendants. These include the surviving band members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, Kurt Cobain’s former spouse Courtney Love, the managers of Cobain’s estate, photographer Kirk Weddle, and art director Robert Fisher.
Now, a new interview with Dave Grohl marks the first time that any of the surviving band members have publicly addressed the lawsuit.
Speaking to the Sunday Times over the weekend, the Nirvana band member hinted that there are plans to “alter” the album cover ahead of its forthcoming 30th anniversary.
“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.”
Since the lawsuit was filed in August, the band have announced plans to release a special edition of Nevermind to mark its 30th anniversary. Preorders for the rerelease are currently available on Nirvana’s website, although Elden’s image remains uncensored.
This comes after Maggie Mabie, a lawyer for Elden, told the Associated Press that the cover star wants the artwork to be censored for any future releases, explaining that: “If there is a 30th anniversary re-release, he wants for the entire world not to see his genitals.”
When prompted to comment on the lawsuit itself, Grohl said: “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.” Although, he did add that he “fortunately” doesn’t have to deal with the paperwork.
The original cover shoot came about when Kirk Weddle — the photographer — reached out to his friends to ask if he could photograph their son while he was working on the artwork, and despite the cover being shot by a friend of Elden’s parents, the legal documents allege that the family never signed a release authorizing the use of their son’s image.
Discussing the famous artwork in 2008, Elden’s father, Rick Elden, told NPR that he was offered $200 for the shoot, which reportedly lasted about 15 seconds. He claimed that he forgot about the photo until three months later, when he saw the cover art on the wall of Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.
Three decades since its release, the album has sold over 30 million copies worldwide, and Elden has re-created the cover while wearing swimming trunks several times to mark its 10th, 20th, and 25th anniversaries.
And while it currently remains to be seen whether or not the band will make changes to the cover for its rerelease next month, something tells us that its original cover star won’t be re-creating the artwork this time around.