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Not Strictly Confidential

Daniel Johnston, The Beatles, Lewis's and a bit more in our round-up of things you may or may not know already...

Published on May 29th 2007.

Not Strictly Confidential

THE thinking muso's muse, Daniel Johnston, came to Liverpool last week, and Liverpool Confidential was invited to show the genius musician and manic depressive “a good time”.

Daniel, who our sister site, Manchester Confidential, was hosting to great success at the Comedy Store, really, really likes The Beatles, and really, really wanted to come here, so a bunch of people piled into a car with him and shot off up the M62.

It wasn’t as easy as it sounds, though. At Warrington, Johnston turned to his Manchester minders and said, “Can we go back? I don’t want to go now, I want to look in comic book shops.” They held out, though, telling him he’d love the famous Magical Mystery Tour. “Daniel,” they said, “it’s the best way to learn about the group. It’s informative, entertaining and so very exciting for Beatles’ fans like yourself.” And they were right. Daniel Johnston fell fast asleep almost as soon as the bus “rolled up”.

***SPEAKING of The Beatles, this week marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the Sgt Pepper album and, to celebrate, all sorts of events are planned at the Albert Dock and The Beatles Story, including an appearance by Karl Lornie and band this Friday.

Curiouser, in time for the Mathew Street Festival, a giant reconstruction of the Peter Blake cover is planned. To appear on it, your name has to be Pepper and you have had to have served as a sergeant. They be queuing around the block for that one.

Still, it's a safe bet. If they'd put out a call for lonely hearts instead, all sorts of emotionally bereft city “celebrities” with Mathew Street links might have turned up, jostling for position. And they know who they are.

***MEANWHILE, back on the coach with Daniel Johnston. The day didn't start out too well, but things got better for the Texas-based star, whose own cult following includes David Bowie, Sonic Youth and Matt Groening.

First off, the best real, good 'ol boys-style burger we could find, at Ha! Ha! in the Albert Dock, did not pass mustard or muster, we were sorry to report. We lily-livered Brits liked it, though.

It was going to be a long haul and, much later, after a couple of hours sitting down the back of the colourful coach, attempting to decode the Liverpool FC-infused banter of our entertaining guide, Johnston and his legs were understandably jumpy.

“Can we get a cab back to the hotel now?” he pleaded. It was explained that we were in Liverpool and not Manchester any more, but that we would take him to Forbidden Planet (the shop, not Manchester) just as soon as we could get off the bus. An hour later we hit the Bold Street comic book store.

“It's much smaller than the Manchester one. That one is on two floors ” pipped a dismayed voice in the entourage. But, phew, it didn't matter, and Daniel left the shop laden with pulp treasure, proving that Liverpool comics make everyone smile (allegedly).

Liverpool Confidential bid him a fond adieu and the legend joyfully bounded off towards the McDonald's opposite Lewis's for some real food. Them artists...

***SPEAKING of Lewis's, what cheer rings around the city at the news that the store - currently as exceedingly bare as the statue over its door - has been “saved”.

Owen Owen's bosses, in Hexham, set off a fire alarm a couple of weeks ago to round up staff so they could tell them they were being sacked.The siren, at the Robbs store, in Northumberland, was deliberately sounded to clear the building of shoppers while staff made their way to the car park for “some bad news”.

The 140 dazed and sobbing workers were then told, by management, that the store would be closing within two weeks and they were out.But happily, as events have showed, it wasn't to be. Robbs was one of four stores in the Owen Owen group which went into administration back in February. The interest in these parts being Lewis's, of course.

A fourth shop in Aberdeen was ailing badly and had to go, including all its unlucky 107 staff whose only recompense, because the store was put into administration, was measly statutory redundancy pay from the government. But with the load lightened, and just the fixtures left at the three remaining stores, a mystery knight came galloping to the rescue at the eleventh hour. Step forward the director of the beleaguered Owen Owen's, David Thompson, complete with a shiny new company, Vergo Retail, and just enough readies to buy the three rattling shops.

David Thompson starts with a clean slate and the £6.8million debts that catapulted the company into liquidation will be written off.

But up in Northumberland, alarm bells of a new kind are ringing, reports the local paper there, and some dismayed staff at Robbs fear that having been at the helm of the ship when it went down, David Thompson isn't the best captain.

“We will bounce back, Lewis's is an inherently good business,” the shining one told the remaining staff in Liverpool who were, this time, weeping tears of relief and perhaps didn't notice who their “new” boss was. Happy days.

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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

stan laurelMay 29th 2007.

another fine mess....

topolskiMay 29th 2007.

Nothing to do with shoplifters feeding expensive drug habits then?Another quality company escapes from Devils Island Liverpool.Liverpool home of primark, pound shops and heroin.marvellous.oh, p.s. city of child murders too.

A. E. ScousemanMay 29th 2007.

I suppose the staff also get a "nice clean slate". i.e., they lose any benefits accrued ove many years for long, loyal service.

AnonymousMay 29th 2007.

Wot, and not the big dig?

A bit bitterMay 29th 2007.

having been one of the people to have their lives turned upside down by the Lewis's closure (will-it-won't-it) its nice to be off Mr Thompson's financial rollercoaster and good to see he that he can start with a nice clean slate

saucypiesMay 29th 2007.

Yes AE Scouseman, but I heard that it was the benefits some people were on that got Lewis's into lumber in the first place. Ooooh!

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