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IRS Records was a truly eclectic, independent label
founded in 1979 by Miles Copeland, brother of Police drummer Stewart Copeland. Over the years, the IRS roster included acts as big as R.E.M., the Buzzcocks, the English Beat, and the Go-Go's, and they reached a broad audience thanks in part to distribution by a series of major labels, including A&M, MCA, and Capitol. Eventually, IRS was subsumed and obliterated by the last of those
majors, when Capitol's parent company, EMI, shuttered IRS in 1996.
In the eighties, however, IRS was a paragon
of indie virtue, and their holiday sampler, Just
In Time For Christmas (1990), reflects that aesthetic. Comprised of both catalog tracks and new recordings, Just
In Time For Christmas strikes a generally lighthearted, if frequently acerbic, tone and includes songs
by several well-known artists including
Squeeze, the dB's, Wall of Voodoo, and Jules Shear, represented here by his short-lived band, the Reckless Sleepers. But, most
were waxed by long-forgotten also-rans like singer Deborah Holland, duo Kennedy Rose, and girl group Rebel Pebbles, whose sassy "Cool Yule" made my Top 100 Songs. Other tracks are contributed by historical footnotes like Klark Kent (a pseudonym for the aforementioned Stewart Copeland) and Steve Hunter (a gifted guitarist who had played with Alice Cooper and Lou Reed).
Taken as a whole, however, Just
In Time For Christmas is an impressive piece of work, and for fans of what we used
to call "modern rock," I strongly recommend it. Songs like Timbuk 3's militant, mournful "All I Want For Christmas (Is World Peace)," Wall of Voodoo's wacky, cautionary "Shouldn't Have Given Him A Gun For Christmas," and Squeeze's taut tale of domestic drama, "Christmas Day," represent the best type of modern Christmas songs - songs that capture the artists at their best, rather than catering to seasonal sentiments. (It's worth noting, that those three songs also show up on Rhino's New
In Time For Christmas began as a seven-song promotional EP in 1987. Using the same cover art as the eventual commercial release, the CD came housed in a gatefold sleeve that allowed IRS executives to pen holiday greetings to their business partners. More significantly, two of the seven tracks didn't make it to the 1990 release: "Christmas Time And You (Let's Put The X Back In Xmas)" by Tirez Tirez and "Green Pants And Finance" by the Balancing Act. Neither song is particularly memorable, and neither has ever been released commercially. Logically, then, you'd have to be a complete lunatic to hunt down a copy and pay an exorbitant collector's price. Mine is signed by Barry Lyons, who was IRS Vice President of Promotions....
Postscript. Over the years, several of these songs - especially the cuts by Squeeze and Timbuk 3 - have become perennial favorites for left-leaning holiday compilations. The rest, however, mostly fell into obscurity and became quite rare. In 2017, Universal Music, which swallowed EMI nearly whole in 2012, rescued eight of the Just
In Time tracks as part of its digital album Lost Christmas: Holiday Rarities 3.
I Want For Christmas (Is World Peace) (Timbuk 3, 1987)
All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth (Dread
Christmas Day (Squeeze, 1979)
Cool Yule (Rebel Pebbles, 1990) Top 100 Song
Everyday Will Be Like A Holiday (Reckless Sleepers, circa
Home For The Holidays (dB's, 1987)
Shouldn't Have Given Him A Gun For Christmas (Wall Of
- Yo Ho Ho (Klark Kent, circa 1980)
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Now, you can hear the Christmas music I write about! My Christmas Jukebox is bulging with over 450 tracks, and I'll be adding more rockin' Yule tunes throughout the year. [listen now]