Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Feels like kiddie porn years later? Nevermind

Nirvana's underwater baby speaks:
'It feels kind of creepy'

Celebrity ain't what it used to be. A where are they now? feature in the Independent, rejigged from an MTV retrospective, explores childhood fame on vinyl.

To millions of music fans, the underwater photograph of a naked baby, a dollar bill floating before his face, will forever mean Nirvana. The star of the cover of the band's second studio album, Nevermind, has rather more complicated feelings towards the image.

"It's kind of creepy that so many people have seen me naked. I feel like I'm the world's biggest porn star," Spencer Elden, who was three months old when the picture was taken, told MTV News.

Spencer's parents were paid just $200 for allowing their infant son to be photographed by their friend, photographer Kirk Weddle. Little did they know at the time that the picture would feature in millions of record collections all over the world.

But Spencer, now a 17-year-old high school pupil in Eagle Rock, California, who works part time in a juice shop, surfs, snowboards and dreams of becoming an airline pilot, has had some recompense for his unsolicited fame.

He is one of the few people to have a platinum record of Nevermind hanging on his bedroom wall and even confesses, in youthful moments of hormonal agitation, to using the chat-up line: "You want to see my penis again?"

"It's kind of cool, knowing that I've been on an album cover, but I feel pretty normal about it because growing up, I've always known I was the Nirvana baby. It never really struck me like, 'Oh, shit, that's me on the cover.' It's always just been whatever for me," said Spencer.

"At the time, my parents didn't know who Nirvana was. No one really knew who they were. And then all of a sudden, it took off, and I just happened to be on the album cover."

If it had not been for Spencer's mother, Weddle might not have come up with the concept for the Nirvana album cover at all.

"My dad went to art school over here in Pasadena, and while he was going there, he had a good friend named Kirk, who was, at one time, a Navy seal and an underwater demolition expert. And so, to go to art school, he gave up diving. One day, he and my mom were sitting at the dinner table during a party, and my mom actually came up with the idea. He was saying how he missed scuba diving and she said, 'Why don't you just do underwater photography?' When he graduated, the first gig he got was the Nirvana album, and he needed a baby. So they just threw me in the pool, and snapped a whole roll of film in like a second."

Released in September 1991 on Geffen Records, Nevermind was Nirvana's breakthrough album, bringing the Seattle grunge scene to a worldwide audience and selling more than 26 million copies worldwide. Listed at number 17 in Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

In 1992, Weird Al Yankovic created a spoof of the cover for his own album Off The Deep End, which featured Yankovic swimming towards a donut. Nevermind was not Spencer's only appearance on the cover of a music album. In 2003, aged 12, he was featured on the cover of The Dragon Experience, the third solo album by cEvin Key of industrial group Skinny Puppy.

In 2001, seven years after the death of Nirvana's lead singer Kurt Cobain, Rolling Stone magazine asked Spencer to remodel the Nevermind slot to celebrate the album's tenth anniversary.
--Ciar Byrne

Pre-teen spirit



Peter Rowan

U2 'Boy', 1980


At the age of six, Peter Rowan, the brother of Bono's close friend Guggi, posed for the cover of U2's first album 'Boy'. He went on to become Ireland's skateboard champion, even appearing in The Commitments.



Billie Jo Campbell

Violent Femmes, 1982


Billie Jo Campbell was three years old on the iconic cover. Now 27, Campbell, lives in LA and works with her mother, running a clothing company. (Fair use of Wiki photo restricted)


anonymous pre-teen London girl
Blind Faith, 1969

Weird rumors inspired by this album cover: the girl was Baker's illegitimate daughter or was a groupie kept as a slave by the band.In 1969, a mystery girl appeared on the cover of Blind Faith, clasping a hood ornament from a 1957 Oldsmobile. Snapper Bob Seidemann, a former flatmate of Clapton, searched for "a girl as young as Shakespeare's Juliet...If she were too old it would be cheesecake, too young and it would be nothing. The beginning of the transition from girl to woman, that is what I was after. That temporal point, that singular flare of radiant innocence."

A 14-year-old girl on the London Tube was asked to model, but her younger sister, just 11, eventually posed (with her parents' permission) in exchange for her own horse.

3 comments:

A. Hack said...

Just as I was reading about Nirvana's cover kid, my mind wandered, as it often does at my age, back to the Blind Faith one of the pre-pubsecent girl... and there it was. Well done, Feral Sleuth! Wonder if anyone would dare do that today, what with heightened fears of sexual preadtors. Innocent times, those were.

Anonymous said...

what about the pic on the cover of the scorpions album?

explain what was going on with that one!

Anonymous said...

Rather than fears of sexual predators, they probably wouldn't today because they'd be charged with creating child porn, ref. the Scorpians/IWF nonsense.

Nude child = child porn don't you know!