No matter what year you were born, unless you’re part of the Alpha generation (those born in 2010 or later), you’re bound to remember the cover of Nirvana’s most popular album, Nevermind.
Nevermind is a cult album released in 1991 by Nirvana that contains memorable tracks such as Smells Like Teen Spirit, Come as You Are.
The album cover is one of the most famous in the world. It depicts a naked child swimming in a swimming pool looking at a dollar hanging from the hook of a fishing rod.
In the early 1990s, it was a scandalous image that caused quite a stir. Exposing genitals in full view on an album cover of a young band making their debut with a major label was a bold choice.
Geffen, the record company, let Kurt Cobain’s band members choose for themselves.
It all started with an idea from the frontman, who found inspiration while watching a documentary on water births. The idea started to develop in his mind, and he told his bandmates about it, who were thrilled.
Robert Fisher, the art director at major label Geffen, immediately set to work looking for the right photo to best represent what Kurt and the band had told him.
The idea of the water birth was discarded after a while, also because of the difficulty in finding the photographic material. The idea was to recreate a photo of a baby in water.
The project was entrusted to the photographer Kirk Weddle who decided to hire the son of a friend of his as the protagonist, Spencer Elden. The parents were given a fee of just 200 dollars.
The child’s parents had never imagined the band’s huge success and found themselves accepting what today seems a very paltry fee.
The record company tried very hard to cover the baby’s exposed genitals. Kurt agreed, provided they were covered with a sticker saying, “If this offends you, then perhaps you are latent paedophiles”.
The record company were cornered and preferred to leave the original cover with genital on display, rather than present an album with such a strong statement.
Spencer Elden’s controversy
A few years later, this year to be precise, the young star of one of the most famous covers in the music world decided to sue all the personalities involved in the Nevermind cover design. The reason? He was not allowed to choose whether or not to appear, showing his genitals, on this cover.
” I was a bit disappointed for a while and I tried to contact these people but I never met anyone. But I never got a phone call or an email. I just woke up one day and found out I was part of this great project. It’s kind of hard to explain, you feel like you’re famous for nothing, because you haven’t really done anything other than their album”.– Spencer Elden’s interview
Spencer said he never consented to the use of his image and that his parents never signed any release. He called the image ‘child pornography’ and demanded $150,000 from everyone involved in the project (including Kurt Cobain’s heirs) in compensation.
Krist Novoselick’s response
Nirvana’s bassist Krist Novoselick was quick to respond, joking on instagram and proposing the following alternatives:
The response went viral in no time and triggered a series of hilarious memes. They are suggesting the new cover of the album that, after 30 years, has managed to get people talking.
We wonder what Kurt Cobain would have thought.