The year was 2002 and I was home for Christmas break from my senior year at West Virginia University. My sister, Lawren, was taking a break from the fast-paced life of Brooklyn at home as well. My Uncle Jacob was in town from the Madison, Wisconsin through the 25th.
We spent the night of December 23rd at home playing games like Trivial Pursuit and Boggle. Anyone that knows my family knows that we get very competitive with each other when we play games. My parents and Uncle Jacob were drinking wine throughout the games, and I’m pretty sure Uncle Jacob had more than everybody else.
When my sister and I each had five pie pieces, she brought up that we should walk up to Burke Street and get a drink at one of the bars. The street of bars and pubs was located just up the road from our West End home.
My parents were pouting because their team only had two pie pieces, so they said they wanted to go to bed. Uncle Jacob was working on a pretty strong buzz at that point so he agreed.
It was an abnormally cold night for a North Carolina late-December evening. My dad made us wear toboggans before we left, since he still believes to this day that you avoid getting colds if you wear one. Uncle Jacob went in a t-shirt saying that “this is summer weather in my parts.”
We passed by Gatsby’s and got to Black Bear. We considered going in there, but didn’t think Uncle Jacob would enjoy not being able to breath, since it was the smokiest bar in the history of the world. We really didn’t want to see any fights (we thought), so we avoided Burke St. Pub.
We crossed the street and headed to the Rubber Soul, which was the closest bar to our house. There was loud music coming from inside, and we saw a sign on the door that said, We Are The Walruses!, which was a Beatles cover band.
Uncle Jacob grumbled, “the Beatles stink! I wish it was the Stones, then I would go in.” He grew up listening to The Doors, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, The Who, and The Rolling Stones. He didn’t like The Beatles. In fact, I once made the mistake of buying my parents a greatest hits album of the Beatles. I’m pretty sure Uncle Jacob chucked it out the window the next time he was in town like a frisbee when nobody was looking. We finally convinced him to go in for a beer and then we would leave.
The Rubber Soul lasted less than a decade on Burke Street. It wasn’t a bad watering hole, and you could see some decent music there. It just was in one of those buildings that could’t keep a tenant, even if it was the coolest place on the Earth. That location has been bars, insurance companies, stores of various types, and it currently hosts a medical website design company. The Rubber Soul was actually closed in 2008, and the owners were sued the next year because of a shooting that happened inside the club. It must have changed a lot over the next five years after we went there that night.
We walked in and there was probably a crowd of about thirty to forty people. Several people were hanging around the bar or playing pool or darts, while about fifteen people were actually paying attention to The Walruses. We ordered some beers from one of the three bartenders and walked toward the music area, since it was less smoky than the pool tables, and they were all being used.
All of the members of the Walruses were dressed in different eras of the famous band from Liverpool. The Lennon impersonator was wearing a blue button-down shirt and blue jeans with a long wig like John Lennon on the Abbey Road cover. The McCartney look-alike was wearing a bright blue and pink outfit with a fake moustache from the Sgt. Pepper era. The fake George had on an off-white button down outfit with long, shaggy hair and a shaggy beard from the Bangladesh, early seventies era. Ringo had on a red velvet and black jacket and large colorful sunglasses from the late sixties. It made for a very interesting assortment.
Uncle Jacob did okay through “Come Together,” “Blackbird,” and “Penny Lane.” He also seemed to drink beers faster and faster as they played their songs. I’m pretty sure he was two beers in by the time they played three songs.
It all started when they started to play, “With A Little Help From My Friends.”
“Play some Stones,” said Uncle Jacob during the first verse on his way to the bar. I don’t think he said it loud enough or the whole band to hear, but Paul definitely heard him as he passed by to get another drink. They got through “Hey Jude” and “Lady Madonna,” and my uncle made it through another beer.
When the Walruses were in the middle of “All I Need Is Love,” he yelled out much louder, “PLAY SOME STONES!”
This caught the attention of The Walruses version of George Harrison. He gave Uncle Jacob a smirk, but kept on playing. Toward the end of the song, Uncle Jacob yelled, “PLAY SOME STONES!” again, and the whole band looked in his direction. He yelled it again after the song, and you could tell that their Paul was getting extremely irritated.
Uncle Jacob started to throw some boos in there and request songs like, “Beast of Burden” and “Brown Sugar.” The Walruses were becoming visibly frustration. At one point in-between songs, Lennon said to my uncle, “We are a Beatles cover band. We don’t play the Rolling Stones!” in an awful English accent.
He mouthed to my sister and I, “Well that stinks for them!”
I think the bartenders would have normally asked a guy to stop yelling, but I think the crowd was getting as big a kick out of my uncle as they were out of the band.
After “Come Together,” he actually screamed, “I ain’t too proud to beg for some STONES!”
I’m pretty sure that Ringo was slamming his drumsticks harder and harder against the drum-kit as each song went by in anger. When they played “Back In the U.S.S.R.,” my uncle started to shout his normal phrase: “Play some Stones,” but when he figured out the song he turned to my sister and I and said, “I actually like this one.”
Uncle Jacob didn’t even need any more beers as they finished off their set with pretty awful renditions of “Hey Jude” and “Let it Be.” We made the mistake of letting him sit around and talk to a fellow Stones fan that had been sitting at the bar the whole night and enjoying my uncle’s show.
We headed around the back to walk up the hill at the end of the parking lot behind Rubber Soul and had the misfortune of walking right into the Walruses. They were all loading up their van, and I think Uncle Jacob didn’t notice them until Paul shouted out, “There is that jerk that ruined our performance.” It was clear that he wanted Uncle Jacob to hear.
Uncle Jacob stormed right back to Paul and said, “You not only were playing the Beatles, but you all were awful impersonators.”
For some reason Paul continued to keep his fake British accent, “you would not know good music if it hit you in the face.”
“I don’t claim to know much about music in general, but I’m smart enough to know you sure aren’t any good,” my uncle spat back. He grabbed the fake moustache on Paul’s face and ripped it off.
Paul shoved my uncle at that point. George, I guess keeping with the tranquil personality of who he was mimicking, was already strapped into his seat belt in the van and avoiding the confrontation.
Uncle Jacob got in Paul’s face and said one of the greatest lines I have heard in my life, “You messed up and now I am going to paint your face black!” He swung a right hook and knocked Paul flat on his back. There was some pushing and shoving between my uncle and Ringo and John, before I was able to break it up with the help of some of the bartenders from the Rubber Soul.
Once the dust settled, we walked home and Uncle Jacob went straight to bed. Uncle Jacob was very quiet at breakfast. Once my mom and aunt left to go to the grocery store, he called us into the room.
“I want to make sure that you all understand that what I did last night was unacceptable. I shouldn’t have ever had as much to drink as I did, and you should always avoid confrontation,” he said to the two of us.
“It is okay,” we both made clear. “We still had a lot of fun.”
Uncle Jacob finished his speech with, “It was a pretty good time knocking that wannabe McCartney on his butt!”
To this day, my sister and I still yell, “PLAY SOME STONES,” to my uncle whenever we see him.