The Story Behind the Nirvana Nevermind Album Cover

This date in 1991, photographer Michael Lavine had five babies repeatedly go into the water to take shots for Nirvana’s forthcoming record, Nevermind. Little did anybody know that the record and the cover, would become classics.

The image featured a naked baby that ended up being four month old Spencer Elden, likely because the dad was a friend of his, with a hook with a dollar added in after the shoot, which was suggested by Kurt Cobain. Cobain had seen a documentary on underwater childbirth…and when that idea was deemed too gross, they went with this one.

Geffen records wasn’t thrilled about a penis on the cover, even though it was a baby, and had prepared an alternate cover, Cobain made it clear that the only compromise he would accept was a sticker covering the penis that would say, "If you're offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile."

Little Spencer was paid the standard hourly rate then for a no name model, which was $250, and was later given a triple-platinum album from the president of Geffen Records. A Nevermind poster hung above his bed for several years.

Spencer has twice reenacted the cover, but with shorts on, even though photographers urged him to be naked, Spencer thought it would be too weird. He did it in 2008 as a 17 year old, and a couple of years ago for the 25th anniversary of Nevermind in 2016.

“The anniversary means something to me,” Elden said. “It’s strange that I did this for five minutes when I was four months old and it became this really iconic image.” He added, “It’s cool but weird to be part of something so important that I don’t even remember.”

 

Elden at 17...

 
Derek Moore

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