WHERE WERE YOU IN '93?
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."
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.
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.