The Rubber Soul.
Not on my "favorite bar list" in Liverpool city centre.
It always struck me as somehow cheap and trashy, no grimy charm to the place.
Not like Flanagan's or The Grapes, where the Beatles used to have a pint before and after gigs.
Or even Lennon's Bar, with it's dank, damp, moody staircase and overpowering smell of stale ale. Even though it was more commercial than a street hawker, Lennon's had a "dirty-old-town" feel to it that was impossible to knock when you were crammed in there singing oldies surrounded by your mates and tidy female out-of-towners.
Rubber Soul just seemed like a piss-heads bar to me. No real hook to draw me in. Maybe I was deaf/blind, but no-one seemed to sing it's praises like they did of the other venues on Matthew Street.
It was surprisingly upbeat walking into there after the girls, though. The two Incredible Hulk look-a-likes even smiled - to a degree - and muttered an "Allitte lad?" as I passed them.
This was different.
The dreaded tourist trade didn't matter once I rolled through the front door of that place.
There were no tacky t-shirts, postcards or posters on sale. It seemed to be totally populated by locals, no foreigners were evident, even amongst the hundreds of people who had piled in straight from the races..
Which was a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, there were lads just like myself, out on a jolly, no cares in the world, fuck-it-lets-get-wasted-and-dance-to-the-music that when we wake up, we'll rub our heads and call our mates and laugh about it.
On the other, there were the middle-aged fellows in cheap St. John's Market imitation leather jackets who'd had an early argument with their other halves, larily scanning the faces around the packed bar, an invisible de-militarized zone around them. Should any drunken reveller be unfortunate enough to stray into that body-space, they would have a serious straightener on their hands, despite the gorillas guarding the doors.
Thankfully, people seemed to pick up on that very possible threat with that strange shared sense of: "pretend that a snarling bruiser isn't actually in the room, whether he's looking at you or not".
A respectable distance was observed by all, no matter how much booze they had ingested.
I wriggled through the crowds to the bar to spot Linda, who was standing expectantly, waving me over. Alongside her was Hayley, who was drunkenly draped over a young guy in a grey suit, his back turned to me.
"Wharra yer 'avin?" slurred Hayley, turning to face me with a conspiratorial smile.
"You sure? I mean...I got dollar, like..."
"Nah, its allittte....STE'S payyinn.." She squealed with dirty laughter as her grabbed her ass and planted rough kisses on her neck.
I had to tap her male escort on the shoulder to acknowledge him properley. He turned to me slowly, a drug-induced smile painted onto his Cheshire-Cat features.
"Wasssappenin lad? Aahmm....STE. Whatsyername...Whatyeravvinn?"
Even though I could feel the effects of the booze kicking in, I had to remain reserved. Not in the defensive sense mind, just to be cordial.
"Yeah...pleased to meetcha.. Fred...." I offered my right hand out, which he shook with a lazy, limp manner.
"Bread?" he blurted, giggling to Hayley, who fawningly looked upon him like he was the golden Buddha, such was her attraction to him.
There was a sudden tap on the top of my head.
"Shit attracts shit. Remember that".
"Maintain your stance, my boy".
Thanks, Little-demon-on-the-shoulder. I should really pay attention to you more.
He jolted back somewhat, perhaps shocked I was so blunt with him. I could see he was no fighter. Not that I classed myself as one.
But for a moment, an unspoken understanding flashed between us.
He knew not to fuck with me verbally. And I'd had too many stupid school playground fights to do so.
I felt no fear.
I could see why the likes of Hayley had latched onto him. He was tall, well-dressed and docile. She would definitely call the shots between them.
Me - despite Linda now pulling my arm, trying to draw me away - I instinctively knew I could take this whopper down. Not even through fists or feet.
Words and observational skills would be enough.....