There’s an epic irony to the ‘Nirvana Baby’ suing the band for exploitation for using a photo of him at 4 months old on the cover of Nevermind.
As many pointed out on Twitter, the fact that in the offending photo he is grasping for a dollar bill is eerily symbolic, but there’s another currency driving this odd and somewhat sad story: fame.
The fact is that – whether through ComiCon, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, or recreating the Nevermind photo as an adult- Spencer Elden has been happy to use it as the basis for a steady career as a Z-List curiosity.
His association with a near-instant cornerstone of rock music history, and wider cultural monolith, earned him a little corner of the spotlight, one that he’s desperately clung to ever since.
Nothing in life is free, but there’s a distinctly Faustian tang to this type of fame. By choosing ‘Nirvana Baby’ as the path to his 15 minutes rather than trying to earn recognition through his own endeavours, Elden sacrificed any control or agency over the nature of this fame, and now that it has presumably passed the point of diminishing returns, he’s banging on the door of Mephistopheles demanding a do-over.
I’ll leave speculation on the outcome of the court case to legal professionals, but in fame terms, launching the lawsuit has, fittingly, given Elden one last little burst of notoriety; unearthed a still-glowing filament in the long-dying spotlight. I fear it will only last the length of the case before burning out completely and leaving the Nirvana Baby in the dark purgatory of anonymity.