He’s the human figure on one of the iconic record covers of rock history, a cynically wry statement on the power of our economy and its corrupting influences, and an introduction to the rock band that simply owned the early 1990’s. A lot of pressure for an infant who probably wanted nothing more than his next breast or bottle of milk.
The name Spencer Elden won’t set off bells of memory in your head, but if you’ve heard or own the 1991 album ”Nevermind” by the legendary, tragically short-lived band Nirvana, you’ve seen Spencer Elden in his birthday suit not long after its delivery and his own, baby-boy floating serenely in a swimming pool at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center in Pasadena, Calif. Elden's parents got $200 for making Spencer available for his closeup back in 1991. Later on, some photo-illustration wizard added a fishhook dangling a dollar bill tantalizingly within reach of the waterchild. Instant pop iconography.
MTV News’ Chris Harris reported last week that more than 17 years after Elden's parents dropped him into the pool where underwater photographer Kirk Weddle shot several frames of the baby Spencer, the grown-up Spencer Elden had recently recreated the “Nevermind” cover (with swim trunks on this time).
MTV News reported it wasn’t clear why Elden decided to recreate the cover … maybe just one of those wild-hair moments teenagers get sometimes.
In August 2007 Elden told MTV News that "it's kind of creepy [to think] that that many people have seen me naked — I feel like I'm the world's biggest porn star."
Uh, well … not really, big guy. The major hormones common to your gender hadn’t quite kicked in in ‘91.
Not that he hasn’t explored the carnal dividends of infant celebrity as an adult. Elden told MTV News last year that being the Nirvana baby has a romantic upside. He’s mentioned it when trying to pick up the ladies: "I have to use stupid pickup lines like, 'You want to see my penis ... again?' "
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A lot’s happened since Nirvana self-destructed — when Kurt Cobain committed suicide in Seattle on April 5, 1994, at the age of 27. Nirvana bass player Krist Novoselic’s gone on to political activism. Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl began a second musical chapter of his life with a little band called Foo Fighters. Both have had various legal estate-related skirmishes with Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love, who remains, now and forever, Courtney Love.
In 2004, the Library of Congress picked “Nevermind” to be one of 50 albums to be added to the National Recording Registry that year. And the album has gone on in the years since its release to rack up sales of more than 26 million copies worldwide.
In the face of all that importance, all that … heaviness, maybe we should be glad that, just for the hell of it, a relatively uncomplicated teenager got back in the pool where his fifteen minutes of fame began. After 17 years — four times longer than Nirvana burned brightly as a band — Spencer Elden’s keeping his head above water pretty well.
Image credit: Big Spencer: Splashnewsonline.com. Little Spencer (on Nevermind cover): © 1991 The David Geffen Company.