In April 1993, Arista Records released a compilation entitled No Alternative. This compilation was a joint production of AIDS organization Red Hot Organization and the AIDS Music Project, aka AMP. It featured a handful of alternative rock bands, some hugely successful and well known, others bubbling up, and a handful of more obscure acts. There Was No Alternative: Generation X, AIDS, And The Making Of A Classic Nineties Record by author Jeff Gomez offers an exhaustive and surprisingly engaging read about this somewhat obscure curio from the Alternative Nation.
There Was No Alternative offers an exhaustive look at the compilation. The first half of the book deals with how the two organizations came to be, and how those two worked together to make the compilation—the third in a series that has since gone on to release other benefit releases—come to be. It’s a story of trial and error, getting artists to sign on, as benefit releases for AIDS proved tricky to get artists to take part, thanks to the negative associations related to the disease. The second half of the book is dedicated to the bands that took place; Gomez offers up brief histories of all involved, and then shares how they came to be involved with the compilation, as well as an examination of the songs that they contributed.
Interesting tidbits of information make There Was No Alternative an enjoyable read. Within the confines of a book like this, the reader learns things that would otherwise not be mentioned in official biographies. For instance, the reader learns that Geffen Records passed on No Alternative, in spite of it being the hip label of the time. The reader also learns the details of how Urge Overkill came to be involved in the compilation. And why was Nirvana included but not listed on the cover or track listing? That information is discussed at length, and it’s a tale both convoluted and interesting, showing how even though the band was one of the biggest sellers of all time, they still had little power over their fate when it came to their record label.
There Was No Alternative offers up a history of an event that most wouldn’t have thought of examining, and the results are quite enjoyable.Sure, some of the information is common knowledge for those who were fans of the music and the style of the era, especially on the bigger names offered here. But set that minor quibble aside and enjoy There Was No Alternative for the interesting read that it is.
Purchase There Was No Alternative: McFarland Books
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