The Baby Picture That Changed Rock

You know the “album”, or CD cover…actually both, at least if you have any interest in rock music. It’s the baby floating towards a dollar bill. Ring a bell? It’s from Nirvana’s Nevermind release, the one that yielded Smells Like Teen Spirit.

According to a story by NPR that “baby” is one Spencer Elden, and he just turned 17…gulp! Yeah, it was 1991 when the “grunge” sound took the world by storm. Young Spencer who is just really getting used to the smell of teen spirit himself gets to lay claim to sharing his baby photos and his “junk” to more than just immediate family or a new girl friend who’s just meeting the folks. According to Spencer, “Quite a few people in the world have seen my penis, so that’s kinda cool. (ya gotta like this kid) He goes on to say,“I’m just a normal kid living it up and doing the best I can while I’m here.

While doing so, I hope that he has found his soundtrack like so many his age found in 1991. I’m not sure he’s “living it up” in the same musical climate. He himself says his friends spend time, “playing Rock Band on Xbox, like, that’s not a real band! That’s the difference between the ’90s and kids nowadays; kids in the ’90s would actually go out and make a [real] band!”

I was programming rock radio in ‘91 and I can still remember the first time I heard the music and I’ll admit it, after years of Zeppelin, Bad Company and plenty of 80’s hair, I didn’t ‘get it’ out of the box. But the younger audience sure as hell got it! They ate it up! And frankly, it’s the last time I recall when there was a real game changing sound on the radio. For a few years grunge proliferated and dominated rock stations. You couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting another group or artist wearing a flannel shirt and singing about their angst.

Beyond making me feel just a little bit old…Holy crap! No kidding that was 17 years ago?…Spencer’s birthday makes me wonder, why there hasn’t been such a sea change in music since then? Events like the British invasion, the summer of love, disco, hair bands all stand out. What since grunge has impacted music like that? Hip-hop? Not really, that was more a product of the 80’s. Thrash metal? Nope. Ska? Nah.

Perhaps the music is out there and it just hasn’t migrated from the many different sources from which music is now available. Maybe it’s the challenge of playing the hits in a “long tail” world. Maybe it’s traditional radio’s obsessions with catering to everyone over the age of 35. But it sure would be great to see a “sound” much less an album make a mark like that. Hopefully Spencer and his friends will take a break from Rock Band and get started on it.


  1. A baby floating towards a dollar bill is amazing and wonderful.

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