At the time A&M agreed to manufacture and distribute Miles' I.R.S. label, many A&M staffers and artists were wary of the deal. A&M had only recently signed and immediately "unsigned" The Sex Pistols, losing a hefty sum and a lot of credibility with some of its star acts, several of whom threatened to leave A&M.
Miles Copeland was still living most of the year in the UK at this point so he needed a savvy music industry insider to run his US operation. He found his ideal candidate right within the A&M organization. Jay Boberg, then 21, was a promotions man for A&M's college markets who had a degree of success in getting many new artists, including The Police, airplay in college markets.
The men behind the little label that could, Miles Copeland III (L) and Jay Boberg...
The original concept behind I.R.S. was not an actual record label per se, but an independent label conglomeration, backed by the distibution/marketing muscle of a major label (A&M). The concept wasn't new -- JEM Records out of Englebrook, NJ and Reseda, CA had been distributing indy and import records for years. With I.R.S. it was the major label affiliation that made the difference. Most early I.R.S. Records carried another logo and the subtitle "An International Record Syndicate Label." (Some even have the word "Independent" instead of "International", leading some to wonder if the "I" initially stood for "Independent").
At first, though I.R.S. was merely the laughing stock of the lot, according to Jay Boberg, with many folks scoffing at the name and even more snickers over the name of the first act released by the fledgling label -- The Buzzcocks. "Buzzcocks! Hahahaha!" A&M staffers were heard cackling. Well, those laughs humbled as the "little label that could" did...
With the signing of Oingo Boingo and the Go-Go's in 1980 I.R.S. became a full-fledged record label in its own right. Miles soon promoted Boberg to President of the label and the staff grew from just the two of them in LA to 17 (in four cities) by the time I.R.S. became an MCA subsidiary in 1985. And as the "indy distribution" concept gave way to the "real label status" in 1981, I.R.S. abandoned their "rainbow label" and developed the trademark they're most identified with -- The I.R.S. Man.
The A&M era labels: (left) The Rainbow label, tailored to the "indy distribution concept" (1979-81) and the Silver/Burgundy I.R.S. Man label (right) that ran from 1981 till I.R.S. moved to MCA in 1985...
Another change within the "I.R.S. Empire" occurred in 1980. Miles signed Jello Biafra's controversial band
Dead Kennedys and was plannig a December 25 release date for their debut LP,
Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables. A&M executives, still "smarting" from the so-called "
Sex Pistols Incident," reacted by telling Miles and Jay that they would not release the Album.
Nor would they allow the "A&M Machine" to be involved in the marketing or manufacture of any artist
Miles' solution to the problem was the creation of a US version of Faulty Products.
(Despite A&M's declaration, for the first few months of Faulty's existence the records were
by and large manufactured by A&M and the address on many of these records is A&M's own
address of 1416 N. LaBrea!) John Guarnieri was appointed head of Faulty Products and the little
"orphan label" served as an outlet for uncommercial acts and an independent distribution operation for
other labels -- sort of what I.R.S. originally set out to be. With the exception of
The Bangles debut EP and a few records from
Alternative Tentacles (namely records by Dead
Kennedys) Faulty had a fairly unimpressive track record, and was folded only few years later.
The Faulty Products Logo
1981 proved to be I.R.S.'s groundbreaking year. With the Go-Go's album
Beauty and the Beat, I.R.S. scored their first gold and first platinum records. No one on the
A&M lot was laughing anymore. Other I.R.S. artists, while not hitting the gold, started
selling well and reaching modest levels on the charts. Oingo Boingo's debut EP sold well enough that
parent label A&M picked them up (as they did Payola$, a group that was actually on
A&M Canada). A year later another Los Angeles band, Wall Of Voodoo, found success with a tune
called "Mexican Radio" and Miles began to expand his "media empire."
With the signing and success of a large number of LA Bands on I.R.S. and Faulty, Miles launched
a Los Angeles-based artist management company, (sort of "west coast partner" to brother Ian's
Frontier Booking International) which he called "Los Angeles Personnel Direction" or
LAPD, and appointed Mike Gormley its head.
If all this wasn't enough, MTV came calling and Miles produced an MTV Special entitled "
The I.R.S. Show. This special served, more or less, as the pilot for I.R.S.'s Cutting Edge which would run
on Sunday nights on MTV for several years (with MTV's 120 Minutes serving as either a lead in
or follow on program). With this new found Television success, Miles launched a Televison production unit
with brothers Stewart and Ian and filmmaker Derek Power. This Division was named for the four
partners: Copeland, Copeland, Copeland & Power, or CCCP. (LAPD and CCCP were
housed in the same building, several blocks south of the I.R.S. offices on A&M's LaBrea lot).
The label and its conglomerate operations were growing and Miles felt the little empire was outgrowing its
digs (and perhaps its welcome) at A&M. It was time to look for a new manufacturing/distribution deal, one
that would give the label more autonomy and more room to become a competitive force at a time when many labels
were starting to merge. MCA Records was making Miles an offer...