A teenage adventure (1962)

For prices of prints see foot of page



In 1962, armed with a professional camera, a £12 guitar and £100 ($280!),  Mike Bell,  owner of Portobello Gold, one of London’s most famous bars (since 1985), at the tender age of 19,  hitched a ride in the owner cabin of a 14,000 ton iron-ore carrier to the promised land, where he knew no one. He experienced “the worst crossing in living memory” and the crossing took  eighteen days instead of ten. “If you have never seen a 90ft wave close up, you haven’t lived!” – says Mike.


Escaping the legendary East Coast floods of ’62, he ended up in the sun at Daytona Beach. Hanging out with the college kids down for their spring vacation, Mike captures the (pre-druggie) spirit of the age – (all in the mould of “Where the Boys are” and “Beach Blanket Babylon”)  and offers for sale a superb (were you here?) 5-part panorama http://www.daytonarama.net complete with a set of extra “memory-jogging” prints.







Pre-planned, he ended up in Nashville, to study one of the world’s greatest guitarists, Chet Atkins. Flash bulbs were prohibitively expensive to a young amateur and so the only solution was to use the fastest film (and then some) and hope for the best. The results, some taken under red spotlights, push the technology of the day to the limits.


Mike was allowed privileged access to Columbia Studios, Music Row, and he has the only photo record of Johnny Hallyday recording in Nashville also some exclusive pictures of Brenda Lee – much of it shot in available light.


In fact he returned again in 1965, this time with a green card and found a completely different vibe – the Beatles had arrived and Mike captured a number of touring  bands. The Beach Boys, The Righteous Brothers, The Stones – they are all here.

     Beatles, Atlanta Stadium August 17th 1965                               http://www.beatlerama.co.uk


After a spell attempting to sell “foreign” cars (ie: not American),  Mike ended up as a DJ on WKDA. This came abruptly to an end when he received call-up papers (to Vietnam).


Nashville’s head of the Air National Guard who happened to own a military ferry airline (and whose daughter Mike was seeing at the time), had said on a previous occasion “They won’t draft you. If they do, I will personally fly you back to the UK”.


He was true to his word - or perhaps they were just glad to see the back of him – because Mike “escaped” to England in the nick of time and joined a rock group touring Germany . . . .  .but that’s another adventure!


These hitherto unpublished pictures take you not only into the studios and on the road, but also capture rural activity at both ends of the social spectrum (including a cockfight).


PRICES: PRINTS: All pictures (except panos) from £30 (for a 12" x 16" mounted print). Unframed.

CARDS: Wraparound cards £2 each or £5 for 3)


BEATLES PANORAMA: £250 for a 4ft wide, £400 for a 6ft wide. To complete the story a number of extra shots are available at a nominal cost.


DAYTONA PANORAMA: If you are American and over 60, you could well be in the shot! - $300 for a 4ft wide, $500 for a 5ft wide print.  Comes with A3 paper print to Identify cars and a number of side shots (which you may be in) - Includes P and P within the US. This picture was chosen by President Clinton during his 2000 visit.


COCKFIGHT. Sold as a set of eight prints – size price -10%


FRAMING (UK) : John White, W10 (020) 8960 2660 will charge from around £20 for a 12”x 16” frame.


COPYRIGHT:  All images are copyright and NOT for reproduction.


CONTACT:  Mike on (UK mobile) 07774 264474 for further information.


CURATOR : Alix Poels.



The show runs  from Wednesday 15th July 2009

At :  Portobello Gold, 95/97 Portobello Rd London, W11 2QB.

+ 44 - (0) 20 7460 4910      mike@portobellopics.com