Manager of Mylène Farmer from 1984 to 1989
February & March 1995
Platinum: What are your origins?
Bertand Le Page: My father was a soldier, I was born in Morocco in 1955. I stayed there for 5 years. Then I spent 12 years in Germany, in FFA. Afterwards, it was Angoulême, Cognac and St Malo. It was during my teenage years that, like the Orlando, the Guazzini … I dreamed of singing. But, unlike them, I ultimately didn’t make records as a performer.
Who were you a fan of when you were young?
I listened to RTL a lot at the time and Jacques Ourevitch: “5,6,7” on Europe 1. We could hear all the French artists that I adored, because I listened to few foreign singers. It will surprise you, but, if I did this job, it is thanks to an artist that I adored: Rika Zaraï. I felt it deeply. When Rika had her car accident in full glory, all the doctors said to her: “It’s over, you won’t walk anymore”. Thanks to her will, her energy, she managed to walk again. It impressed me. I even saw Rika on stage in Cognac in 1970, I was overjoyed, because for me, it was an event.
Did you prefer simple or sophisticated singers?
I liked the glitter of Sylvie Vartan or Dalida, but also the sincerity. In 1974-1975, I ‘went up’ to Paris, I was 20, a cardboard suitcase (smile) and 500 FF in my pocket. My parents didn’t want me to work in this profession, which for them was not. They therefore did not endorse this departure. I was staying in a terrible little furnished apartment in rue Stéphane Pichon and I was paying 700 FF per month, which was overpriced. I did odd jobs and took acting lessons because I wanted to be an actor. I had given up on my idea of being a singer because I knew I didn’t sing well. The acting profession seemed more accessible to me. To begin with, as I was red-haired, I did a lot of commercials for the magazine press and for TV. At that time when I was earning 2000 FF, for me, it was huge. Very quickly, I shared an apartment under Bill 48 with a friend, at 600 FF per month. We paid 300 FF each, it was bohemian life.
So you entered this profession through advertising?
Not exactly. I was often told: “You have a good voice, you should do radio”. I therefore proposed a model to Radio Bleue: “What have they become?”. The project was accepted. As guests, I decided to interview the Parisiennes one day. I called Anne Lefébure who was the voice of FR3, another Parisian who had become a dancer in the Carpentier shows, and Raymonde, who had directed the group and who was now in charge of a publishing house. Raymonde came to do the Radio Bleue interview with me. It went so well, that at the end of the show, she offered to work for her. With her husband, Jean-Bernard Réteux, de Souchon, she had created a music publishing house: Lorgère Musique. So I found myself on rue de Washington, where Jean-Bernard had installed an ultramodern digital studio. There were only two in Paris. At the same address, there were the offices of Bagatelle, and on the top floor Christian Clavier who was not yet known.
So you tried to edit music and songs?
I edited a lot of music from films and serials including that of Coffee Break in 1980, which became a song by Véronique Jannot. As for Croque la vieby Jean-Charles Tacchela, I had found the music of the composer Gérard Anfosso to be very good. I suggested that he write songs, to which he replied: “Oh no, in France, it’s not interesting”.
In the end, we still wrote a text on his music, and we had the project to have the song sing by Jane Birkin. She accepted and we did the orchestral playback in her key. This is where Serge Gainsbourg arrived by telling us that Jane did not sing songs other than himself, and especially not in French. So we had to find another singer. It was Fabienne Thibault, but, for budget reasons, she was forced to record on the PBO, in the tone of Jane. , I called Françoise Coquet who was working with Drucker. I was very innocent and maybe that’s why it worked. In the end, we did all the TVs. On Drucker’s evening, I remember that there was Sheila, Nicolas Peyrac: I attended the ‘show-bizz’, my childhood dreams came true.
How did you go from music and songs from movies to variety?
I once received a call from Gérard Anfosso, who often did film scores for me. He said to me: “I am going to make you listen to a girl who has an extraordinary talent”: it was Jakie Quartz. She had made a record with Eric de Marsan, her production was called Astroliner and was distributed by EMI. I tried to have it produced by our edition, by asking Jean-Bernard Réteux, to lend us his studio. In return, as a publisher, he would have had 50% of all rights. He didn’t want to, even though it didn’t cost him anything. I think he absolutely no longer believed in record sales. Gérard Anfosso then called a friend of his in Marseille, Paul Sianchi, to produce Jakie, to pay the studio, the musicians. The latter agreed to put the money. Developed for the summer of 83, with a distribution at CBS and a cover by Mondino. Result: 1 million singles. Sianchi made a lot of money, and since I was a manager and co-editor, so have I. I was finally out of my financial ‘shit’ and I left the editions of Jean-Bernard Réteux to take care of Jakie. Of his first album, still in 1983, we sold 70,000 copies at CBS. However, we made a mistake, that of putting Last Time on the B side of Debug and not keeping it to make a second extract. So there was no second single from the album. The relationship problems started and, with Jakie, we broke up before the second album.
With Jakie, it’s difficult to work. When I work with an artist, I give my all, but I don’t want the artist to disown me, which Jakie did all the time. With Robert Toutan, the CBS press attaché, but also with journalists. In 1984, Jakie released a cute song, Mal de vivre , but like the album, Blonde Alert , it didn’t work. When you leave someone you loved, you have to be honest: it reassures you when the person isn’t walking without you. It’s horrible but that’s how it is.
In 1984, you started working with Mylène. When did you meet her?
I had known at the beginning of the Eighties, at Lorgère Musique, a young boy who had brought me the poster of a film that he wanted to make and that he wanted to call Giorgino . It was Laurent Boutonnat. He called me back one day in 1984. He had done a casting to find a singer and had her record a record with RCA. Her name was Mylène Farmer and was singing Mum wrong . This first disc, which will end in 100,000 copies, was only shivering in the Top 50. We met with Laurent, Mylène and Jérôme Dahan, the latter co-signed the songs. I joined their team by becoming an editor, which constituted my remuneration. We struggled three years during which I lived thanks to the . The star of the moment who impressed us all, including Mylène, was Jeanne Mas.
Why did you leave RCA after Mama a tort and On est tous des imbéciles ?
With Laurent, we felt that François Dacla from RCA did not see Mylène’s potential and that he no longer wanted her. He finally gave us back the contract and we signed the distribution of Mylène at Polydor, for three years. The first single Polydor, Plus grandir , did not work at all in 1985. However, if Mylène has a song that sticks to her skin, it is this one. The second 45 rpm, Libertine , in 1986, then, Tristana and Sans contrefaçon, in 1987, blew it up.
They say that Mylène’s success rested on the clips?
In 1985, when we signed with Polydor, I kept the co-publishing, the other half was sold to Polygram Publishing for them to co-produce the clips. In 1987, when I was at Tréma, Mylène needed a lot of money to make the clip for Sans contrefaçon , we knocked on every door. Umlaut asked for 15 points for donating the money for the clip. Laurent Boutonnat refused and preferred to manage. Sans contrefaçon was Mylène’s third hit after Libertine and Tristana . The most expensive of all clips has been Pourvu qu’elles soient douces in 1988. It reached AFF 380 million (old francs, editor’s note). We shot for a week, there were extras, sets … Sans Logique in 1989 also cost a fortune.
Polygram has always paid for part of these clips because they were essential for the sale of records, and Laurent and Mylène have always given a lot of their money to make ends meet. And it is not with what the chains give to pass them (between 1,000 and 1,500 FF per passage on M6, editor’s note), that they are reimbursed! We understood that the channels come before all the clips which are beautiful, even if the song is not yet known. Those filmed in 16 or 35 are more likely than those filmed on video. After I left in 1990, the clips continued to look great, in 1991, was more average. Je t’aime mélancolie in 1991, That my heart lows in 1992 directed by Luc Besson, are superb. It is also in 1990, that Mylène made a big promotion on Germany.
Did you take care of managing Mylène?
From 1984 to the end of 1989, I took care of the management of Mylène. The promo was always complicated, the interviews were carefully prepared, never live, even on the 8pm newspaper. Everything was studied, because Mylène is not a girl for the direct. She is shy, fragile and she needs to feel safe. She is Virgo ascending Virgo, it is not for nothing. I remember she phoned me saying: “If you are a good manager, you will prove it to me: I want twice as many passages on NRJ for Sans contrefaçon“. I had the stage fright but I got them. There, hell began, because we had to always go further, but also because we had to refuse a lot of things and put people in the media to back. To celebrate our success, we had also a beautiful dinner ‘libertine’ at Jardin de Bagatelle after the Palace of Sports 1989. it was a total success.
When you helped to create the character of Mylène, who you are inspired by?
By Sylvie Vartan At the Palais des Sports de Mylène in 1989, we really felt the heritage of Sylvie Vartan. Mylène danced, sang, played, all in elaborate costumes, it was a real show. Remember the photographer Marianne Rosenstiehl, who took pictures for us in the dressing room, some of which were used for the cover of À quoi je sers…in 1989. Of course, I didn’t tell Mylène that my ideas were taken from Sylvie’s character, because that would have annoyed her. But I think Mylène knew where they came from. I was also inspired by Dalida, who was an extraordinary show woman from the 70s. There too, I knew that I shouldn’t tell Mylène, because it would have annoyed her. Young singers never like to know that they are not the first to do something. Mylène was a new Dalida or a new Vartan. These three girls have the same audience: a lot of homosexuals.
What did you think of the merchandising that was done around Mylène? From Polygram Merchandising who manages it today?
I didn’t know it was now managed by Polygram. In the 80s, we did this ourselves: the T-shirts, the lighters, the photos. But everything was too good, too expensive. Of the 70 dates of Mylène’s only tour – if we except the Europe Un podium featuring Catherine Lara in 1986 – Mylène, Laurent and I must have won 10,000 FF each. This is little. Mylène has a popular audience, and we offered her products that were too luxurious, too sophisticated. Mylène read Luc Dietrich, and had difficulty giving in the popular.
In 1987, you reunite with Jakie Quartz, and you also work with Buzy?
Yes, I fell in love with a text by Buzy called Body physical . On the other hand, I found his music impossible. I asked Gérard Anfosso to write music for Buzy. For 6 months, three times a week I had Buzy on the phone to make him admit that she had to content herself with writing the texts. It was produced by Gérard Pédron who took care of Lahaye and “Lahaye d’honneur”. From this TV show, which was managed by Bob Otovic, I have very strong memories. Buzy was distributed by Phonogram. Body physical walked: we were holding a tube. It was the only time in my life that a radio station, Europe 1 in the person of Albert Emsalem, asked me for a co-edition to pass the title. I was blown away, even if it was common in the ‘old profession’ from the 70s. I refused this proposal especially since there were no fixed promises of rotations, of broadcasting. After the single from Body physical , there were two more singles with me: Baby boom, Sweet Home , but no album.
In addition to taking care of Mylène, in 1985 or 1986, you joined Tréma?
This was the time when I was contacted by Régis Talar to develop a young catalog at Tréma. Mylène found it very flattering, rewarding for her. The problem is that as soon as I was outside to take care of Mylène or Buzy, people at Tréma changed the things I had done: the covers, the promo plans … It was difficult to deal with.
At Tréma, in 1987, you find the singer of your childhood, Marie.
Yes, I signed her last record, Bulles de chagrin (available on Marie’s compilation in The Years Songs, editor’s note). When she came to see me for the first time with her husband, Lionel Gaillardin, the ex-guitarist of Once upon a time, I brought my children’s notebooks to my office where I had pasted his photos from 1971 to 1973. I was very moved. Unfortunately, this is the time when I left Tréma after a huge crisis, due to alcohol and cocaine.
I screamed and broke all my equipment, my frames, my desk, but I had the presence of mind to call SOS riddance. When Regis Talar, the manager, returned, everything was in order. After my departure, Tréma buried Marie’s record, which was not really released on the market, despite a promotion debut in 1988. I missed the return Marie and I am very sad. Lionel, her husband, who was also the producer, would have, maybe, had to shake me more. A little while later, I saw Marie again, who was editing films for a living. I was very embarrassed towards her. I learned that she had passed away a few months ago, it shocked me. I’m glad you reissued some of his songs in the collection The Years Songs . We can find there a dedication of Véronique Sanson to Marie, and this is normal since she brought a lot to the 70 generation. And to Mylène too … Mylène had listened to Bulles de chagrin and took up the idea in Ainsi soit je… It is not the only one from which Mylène took an idea. Another boy I had been producing since 1985, Alix Morgen, now deceased, had a castrato voice. I had him record a song with the ambitious production “Before the world explodes, I want to die”. This record was released when Klaus Nomi died and all the radio stations refused it to me because Nomi and the castrati were taboo because of AIDS. The chorus said “So be it, so be it …”. I the sent to Mylène.
Mylène also officially took over a song from Marie Laforêt? READ MORE ABOUT MYLENE and MARIE Laforêt HERE 💛
I always told Mylène that she had to do covers. One day, I lent her all my Marie Laforêt records, because I wanted her to sing three songs that I really liked. However, I did not tell her which ones. She called me back, telling me I’m going to sing Je voudrais tant que tu comprennes, which was one of the three chosen. This is where we realize what the word complicity means. Unfortunately, the song that was to be released on the B-side of Sans Logique in 1989 has been replaced by Dernier Sourire , and this, despite the insistence of the original publisher … and mine. In the end, it was only edited on the ‘live’, by the fact that Mylène sang it on stage. With Déshabillez-moi, it was Mylène’s only cover. At the end of 1987-beginning of 1988, I had three Top 50 hits: Sans contrefaçon, Body physical by Buzy, and A la vie, à l’amour by Jakie Quartz.
How was the reunion with Jakie Quartz?
I no longer know if it was me or her who called back. We made A La Vie, A L’Amour and it was a big hit in France and even in Germany. We sold 300 or 400,000 singles because the DJs liked Jakie for the box sound that Anfosso ‘arranged’ for him. We sold quite a few albums too. Then, in the early 90s, she released an album on Warner, but without me. It didn’t work.
What has become of Gérard Anfosso?
At the end of the 80s, he had a big depression, following the suicide of his father, who was from Marseille. Recently, I contacted him to compose for a girl I found. He came, listened, and left unconvinced. I haven’t heard from any more. I think he blew up. It’s strange, everyone around me had a bad experience with Mylène’s hits from 1986 to 1991.
Anfosso worked with Jakie,
Laurent and Gérard’s ego problem, who saw each other three times, but it didn’t work out.
In 1988, are you the most envied publisher?
Yes, with all this success, I even had to ‘blow my mind’. For me, starting from scratch, all that money was crazy. For two years, I must have been really unlivable, people who knew me at that time must have bad memories of me. I have one flaw: I am very frank. When I don’t like a song, I tell people, even beginners: it’s more honest, even if in this business, we prefer compliments and rounds of legs. The problem is, they never get anywhere.
Why haven’t you done anything with Jakie after À la vie à l’amour ?
Jakie has a very strong personality, like me, and our passions could be as constructive as they are devastating. In 1988, I was still with Mylène and a crazy story happened. Jakie lived at 18, rue Quincampoix in a stylish, trendy triplex. With that, Mylène tells me one day that she wants to move. As she still lived in a doll’s house, I encouraged her to move to a large apartment the size of the star she has become. And by the greatest of luck, she signed for an apartment at 18, rue Quincampoix.
It was horrible, I couldn’t come and see one without being seen by the other. Their cohabitation lasted three years. If Mylène was very reserved when it comes to remarks about Jakie, Jakie was not. Despite all that, I think I loved Jakie as much as Mylène, madly. After the promotion of A La Vie, A L’Amour, one day Waterman (from Stock Aitken and Waterman) calls me and says “I would like to remix Jakie Quartz”. It was done and the remix was released everywhere, in Germany, in England … but sung in French. Today I realize how lucky I was to have all these people on the phone. It was an exceptional time. It’s not ‘normal’ that at 35, I have 23 gold records to my credit.
You left Mylène in 1989 …
Yes, after the December Bercy. In the fall of 1989, we had made the 70 dates of the tour with Thierry Suc, we were exhausted, physically and also morally. Even if Mylène wrote me a letter that ended with “I love you like no one“, and that she slipped it under my door, in a hotel during this tour, the tension was mounting. There was also the war with Jeanne Mas, since the famous TV show. I must admit that Mylène never said anything against Jeanne. She had decided that silence was preferable. She was right. Jeanne, after her Bercy in September 89, had decided to tour at the same time as Mylène and in the same towns, preferably a day before. It was not possible, the public did not have enough money to afford both. I wanted to intervene, Mylène did not want and Laurent played the wait-and-see attitude. Jeanne, who was at the start of her slump, decided at the last moment not to do her 40-date tour.
I had decided to have another dinner after Bercy, still for the press and the profession. A magnificent dinner for 500 people at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. We had to give Mylène, then me, a certified diamond disc. This is where it all messed up. I wanted something very star, very solemn too, and Alain Levy did not play along. He gave her the record while everyone was on their plate. There was no scenography, no magic. I couldn’t accept this. So I screamed … and the evening turned to horror. My megalomania was disproportionate, I know it today, because I found a physical and psychic balance.
The majors don’t like independents, maybe that was a way to downplay your importance in success.
She was upset. She tried to calm me down by telling me that if I continued, she would come out. Everyone was leaving. Mylène sent me a telegram: “If you need me, I’m here“. This girl is extraordinary in humanity. But then, I would have loved to see her. A month later, she called me and said: “We are stopping working together, your behavior has become impossible“.
You didn’t have a contract with her?
No. I have always worked on speech. It’s true that I had the editing of the songs, it’s a kind of contract. Following the breakup, I sold my catalog of editions, ie 77 songs. I don’t know if I got a good deal, because, as I have contractually access to the statements, I know that today, after three years, my buyer has already recovered 4 / 5ths of his stake. . Notice, apart from Mylène, whom I had since the first single on RCA, there was nothing important. If it no longer sells, the catalog will no longer be worth anything. In any case, for several years my name as the original publisher will continue to appear on any reissues. Mylène even left my photo with her in her ‘live’.
I produced a record that didn’t come out. The singer’s name was Pascale Chambry, she hosted, with Karen Cheryl, programs for young people. I signed it to Tréma with a song called Les mots du jour . The production cost me dearly and it didn’t work. Until today and since the release of Mylène’s album L’autre…, I had a bad experience of the failure. Especially since the people in this profession are horrible. They said to me: “Oh Bertrand, you made the mistake of your life, Mylène’s last album is wonderful“. They twisted the knife in the wound a thousand times. There is, in addition in the album L’autre…,, a song, Pas de doute, which, I believe, me
Did you produce Binoculars at WEA in 1993?
Before that, I worked as an agent, in charge of actors (Agnès Soral, Christine Boisson, Féodor Atkine …) at the Agents Associés, managed by Georges Beaume, between 1991 and 1992. I had also made a record with Valérie Mairesse in 1991. For the Binoculars, Céline Music (Vline Buggy, editor’s note), the co-producer and I had chosen Carole Coudray, the lyricist of Françoise Hardy in Shoot not on the ambulance. The production of their album cost me dearly again. PinkShould have been a hit, but no sooner had we started the promo than AB stepped forward to engage them in “First Kiss”. Azoulay called me home to convince me. I didn’t want to, but I only had a record producer contract with the Twins, I couldn’t forbid them to act in a sitcom or elsewhere. My position as manager, if it allowed me to get 10% on everything they did, did not give me the possibility of forbidding them to do anything. So I let it go, especially since WEA believed in the sitcom to detonate them, but the radios did not follow, except M40. Jacques Metges, who was still at WEA, was in charge of the promotion. As he was friends with Charles Sudaka, Jacques Martin’s right-hand man, they made The world is yours. Being WEA, they did not have the handicap of AB artists, who receive very little support outside TF1 and AB broadcasts. The image of this group is catastrophic in the business. I was depressed, especially since Gérard Louvin, when he received the record, called me to tell me: “Bertrand, you have a hit. I want their first big TV to be Sacrée Soirée”. We did a second single, but we should have releasedOnly candy lies instead.
It’s to calm you down that Jean-Luc Azoulay hired you at AB Disques …
It’s for a whole bunch of things. For Les Jumelles, for Sébastien Roch, because I took care of his press as a freelance and I got more and more cover. I’ve been with AB for a year now. I joined on October 15, 1993. Sébastien left us the following December to prepare an album with Phonogram. Since then, I have been working with Jean-Michel Fava in the records department. We can laugh about AB, but it’s a French company that has no money problems, it’s rare today. Dorothée still sells a lot of albums, H
élène and Christophe Rippert have had fabulous success. When Nagui said to me: “What are you doing at AB?”, I answer him that you have to live too and that you don’t always have a choice. “
It is said that France Gall phoned Azoulay to hum “Hélène, my name is Hélène” and “Ziggy, his name is Ziggy” before getting angry. It’s true that the songs are very similar …
Maybe … At AB, I also started production again. I signed Rodney Weber, who is the English-speaking Canadian that we see in Celine Dion’s Ziggy music video . We made a record in English which is produced by AB, but since he is a ‘model’, a model, he lives in Munich, works in South Africa, in Spain … It is not easy to promote with him, because he is rarely in Paris. I also signed a girl for AB, Nathalie Santa-Maria.
Do you take care of the adult AB labe, Think of me, where we find Dave, Charles Dumont, Desirless, Carlos, Jeanne Mas …? If this label does not work (none of the artists has sold more than 20,000 albums), is it not because it does not have the support of suitable media?
I do not take care of these artists, because I believe that I could not bring them anything, except Jeanne Mas for whom I have a lot of admiration and love. As far as Desirless is concerned, it is her ex-secretary, I believe, who took it in hand and for the promotion, it is Annie Markhan who takes care of it. Jean-Luc Azoulay has this quality of opening his door to artists who are not intended for children and of leaving them all the freedoms.
For my part, I have an album project with Amanda Lear.
What do you think of Mylène today?
Since I am no longer there, no one advises Mylène anymore, but she is doing well: the first album was 400,000 when it was released and 200,000 afterwards, the second 1,400,000, the live 600,000, the third 1,700,000… (the Dance Remixes compilation is double gold, ie over 200,000). Before the failure of the film [Giorgino], I understand that Mylène could have imagined that she was the ‘Chosen One’ and that she, like Jeanne Mas, lost control of what she was.
The problem is that Laurent too was convinced to be the ‘Chosen One’ and he thought that nothing could stop their rise. Neither could alert the other. We feel that Mylène is all alone, lost. For the promotion of the film Giorgino, it is obvious that she and Laurent were isolated, surrounded by people unable to tell them face to face what to do, unable to warn them of the danger.
How can you tell a super-star or a super-producer that what he’s doing isn’t right, unless you’ve been a newbie to him? Giorgino was very expensive. It’s terrible, because it’s four years of work and all the money they’ve made is wiped out. On the other hand, I cannot understand why no journalist has pointed out Laurent’s links with romantic England and especially with David Lean from whom he borrowed all of Ryan’s daughter.
His whole life has been influenced by these characters: why baptize Ryan Jones one of his businesses? Ryan and Jones, because that’s the name of the captain who falls in love with Ryan’s Daughter. Laurent’s publishing company is called Requiem, the record production company Tutankhamun, the film production company is called Heathcliff, named after the hero of Wuthering Heights / Les Hauts de Hurlevent , another film which greatly inspired Laurent.
Giorgino is too long, there is no need to do three hours. The film would have lasted an hour and a half, it would have worked. The outing has been postponed twice, once in the spring, once at the end of August. The promotion in the fall was deliberately too discreet, there were promotion problems. It only really started two weeks before release and no one really knew the movie was finally coming out. Nobody wanted to go see it, because everyone thought the film would be just a long clip.
In addition, the distant attitude of Mylène and Laurent appeared to be pretentious. They made a film shot in English so that it would go all over the world but gave few interviews. I remember Hugh Grant, . He had been contacted to play the leading role alongside Mylène, but he refused.
Today, how can Laurent prepare the album [Anamorphosée ] that Mylène must contractually release in March? How will relations be with José Covo at Polydor?
It is said that Laurent is in depression. Even the private history of Laurent and Mylène cannot help but suffer from this failure. I saw Laurent twice in a restaurant since the breakup, he didn’t even say hello to me, I find that sad.
Mylène is a prisoner of her image of a fragile, romantic girl, she will never be able to change it: she is not a vamp and it is better that way. I wrote to her recently, I had never done so since the day in 1990, when she learned that I had sold my edition. In this last letter, I told her that I had not seen her for 4 years and that I was suffering from it.
If you had the chance to change your past …
I would do everything the same way again, because I believe that passions are linked to crises and that breakups and reconciliations are inevitable. As in Dalida’s song: “If I had to do it again … I would do everything again“