Remember the baby on the cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind?
The album cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind might be as iconic as its music. A grunge-era classic, it features a tranquil image of a naked baby boy floating in a swimming pool as he moves towards a dollar bill hooked on a string. The striking image is one you likely remember, or at the very least recognize, as many other music lovers have this cover, shot by photographer John Chapple, ranked 3rd in Rolling Stone’s Readers Poll of The Best Album Covers of All Time.
Spencer Elden was the baby who appeared on the cover of an album that went on to sell around 30 million copies worldwide. In 1991 Elden was a few months old when his parents received a call from underwater photographer Kirk Weddle, who asked them if he could use their baby in a photoshoot for the second album of “an up-and-coming band called Nirvana”. Elden’s father helped with sets and props for photoshoots, which is how he came to be acquainted with Weddle.
Geffen Records had a specific image in mind and none of the previous images Weddle had taken of babies at a swimming class would work. Instead, one of the stills of Elden was chosen, and a fishhook with a dollar bill was added to make it look as though the baby was swimming after it.
Elden’s parents were reportedly paid $200 for the shoot, which lasted around 15 seconds.
Weddle told TIME in 2015: “It was a great concept – a baby underwater, unable to breathe, going after money on a fishhook. After Nevermind was a big hit, they came back to me to shoot the band underwater.”
Today Elden lives in Los Angeles with his mother, where he focuses on “art and growing tomatoes”.
So far he has never met the two surviving members of Nirvana – Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic – previous attempts to contact them were unsuccessful. Grohl was asked by TMZ in 2013 if he had ever met the baby from the Nevermind cover, to which he said: “I’ve never met him. We weren’t there the day that they did the photo shoot, so I don’t know. I’ve seen him in magazines and stuff.”