Grunge. Flannel. Generation X. In 1993, this was all you heard about. Seattle was the capital of the world, Nirvana was king, and slackers were everywhere. So when the Red Hot Organization, a group of activists dedicated to raising money and awareness of AIDS, released their third CD compilation—entitled No Alternative and featuring the biggest bands of the alt rock era: Soundgarden, Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins, Breeders, and fifteen others (including Kurt and co.)—it quickly became the touchstone of a generation. Rolling Stone called it a “jaw-dropping compilation of musical gems.” 

The record was enormously popular, and its iconic boy/girl covers quickly became ubiquitous. That was thirty years ago. There Was No Alternative looks at what happened to the groups involved with the compilation. Who’s still making music, who didn’t make it out alive? 

In addition to all new interviews with the people behind the record, including the musicians, There Was No Alternative chronicles the downfall of an industry, the taming of a devastating illness, and the arrival of another global pandemic. It’s about growing up, saying goodbye, and proving once more you can’t go home again (even if that’s where you left all your CDs).

"Strongly reported and excellently written, There Was No Alternative by Jeff Gomez is more than the story of a singularly important benefit album. At a time when other plagues loom large and memories are too short, Gomez charts how AIDS and the reluctance by those in power to help the afflicted shaped the attitude and music of a generation. It's a tale that very much needed telling."

—Jim DeRogatis, author of Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma’s Fabulous Flaming Lips 


Released in October 1993 by Arista Records, No Alternative was the third AIDS charity record made by the Red Hot Organization. It was produced by Paul Heck, Chris Mundy, and Jessica Kowal and was issued on CD and cassette. The compilation featured nineteen bands and performers, including Nirvana, Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, The Breeders, Pavement, Buffalo Tom, Urge Overkill, Patti Smith, Goo Goo Dolls, Soul Asylum, and more. The record was accompanied by an hour-long MTV special which featured live performances by three of the featured bands and short films by Michael Stipe, Tamra Davis, Hal Hartley, and others. In 2013, to celebrate the record's 20th anniversary, No Alternative was released on vinyl for the first time as part of Record Store Day.

"The pivotal moment when alternative music became mainstream remains a subject of fascination. Jeff Gomez's book There Was No Alternative offers a window into a moment when many artists on the cusp of that transition came together to raise money and awareness for AIDS. Insightful, meticulously researched and entertainingly assembled, this book will help many readers recapture the era and introduce it to many others." 

—Kaya Oakes, author of Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture


Jeff Gomez has been writing about the worlds of Generation X and alternative music for more than twenty-five years. In 1995, Simon & Schuster published his first novel, Our Noise, a look at music-obsessed twenty-somethings. The novel was reviewed in Alternative Press and Maximum Rocknroll. The sequel, 1997’s Geniuses of Crack, was about a band recording their major label debut in Los Angeles. Among his recent books is Zeppelin Over Dayton: Guided By Voices Album By Album, which was published by Jawbone Press. Former Guided By Voices member Tobin Sprout said that “after finishing this book, you will want to experience it again.” Zeppelin Over Dayton spends a considerable amount of time talking about the ‘90s music scene, which Gomez was involved with as a fan and a participant.

"With rigorous reporting and piercing cultural observations, Jeff Gomez zeroes in on a single album that came out in 1993 — and winds up telling the story of a pivotal moment in time. It’s a moment that was marked by a devastating illness; it’s also a moment that we remember for its profusion of good, original music. From ACT UP to Uncle Tupelo, Gomez shows us how activism and creative expression converged to fight—and shine a light on—an expanding international tragedy. Put your Gen X stereotypes aside, because it turns out that the No Alternative album represented the very opposite of apathy. The album was the product of righteous love and grief; so is this book."

—Jeff Gordinier, author of X Saves the World