Simon LeBon on Robbie, Rock and Love

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Oct 23 2004

Exclusive From Matt Laddin In Los Angeles

If bookies had taken bets on Simon and Yasmin Le Bon's marriage being a success, the odds would have been up there with Elvis winning the Derby on Shergar.

For starters, romances between pop stars and supermodels rarely stay the distance.

Then there were the unusual circumstances - the New Romantic singer had picked his stunning wife-to-be out of a model agency's portfolio.

But the bookies - like the rest if us - would have been dead wrong.

Twenty years on from their intimate and unpretentious wedding, they could not be happier.

So no one was very surprised when rumours flooded the gossip columns recently that they were expecting their fourth child.

No one, that is, except Simon and 39-year-old Yasmin.

The Hertfordshire-born star is still chuckling about it over lunch in the cafeteria at the Los Angeles studios of the Jay Leno Tonight Show, where Duran Duran are to make a guest appearance.

"My publicist told me someone had called to say Yasmin was pregnant, that she was cutting back on food and had stopped smoking and drinking," says Simon, 45.

"I told Yasmin straight away and she said, 'Tell them I eat what I want and I drink like a fish'."

Even after all this time together, not a day goes by without a long catch-up phone call, frequently from different sides of the Atlantic.

"Yasmin is my person and I have to reinforce that," he says, without a trace of embarrassment.

"She gets me through what I do. Because she's a model we understand that work means one of us might have to be away.

"It's important that we speak on the phone a lot. The thing that can be a problem is trust. You have to make sure there is no loss of trust and that your partner still knows you care."

DESPITE their heavy workloads, they have always made time for one another and for their daughters - Amber, 15, Saffron, 13, and 10-year-old Tallulah. It's why their marriage has been such a success.

The strength of their relationship is all the more remarkable because of the way they met.

"I was flicking through a photographer's portfolio and saw an extremely beautiful girl looking back at me," recalls Simon.

"She had a warm and honest smile, which was just what I was looking for at the time. So I set about getting her number.

"We met up and she was a really fun person. She had so much to say about everything. She was into music and art. She was a member of the Royal Academy. I found that very attractive.

"Once I got her to go out with me I wasn't going to lose her, and ever since then I've fancied her rotten.

"She is still young at heart and that's the real attraction. She's not ready to join the fat people's club yet just because she's reached a certain age.

"She still stands out in a room of women half her age.

"I could never stray when I've got such an incredible wife.

"I've calmed down a lot since the 80s, that's the first major change. I'm a normal family guy now.

"Back then I partied lots and probably took things a little too seriously."

Such is his love for Yasmin that he still wrestles with his emotions and once said, "It's important to keep jealousy under control... ITHEIR bond became even stronger after his near-death experience while competing in the Fastnet yachting race in 1986.

His boat, Drum, capsized, and Simon was trapped in a small air bubble under the hull for almost an hour. That horrifying experience changed his outlook on everything.

"If you talk to anyone facing the possibility of their own death in such an immediate and undeniable way, you find they have a slightly different take on life," he explains.

"It peels a layer off you and makes you glad of every moment because you realise that the end is never far away."

Simon is a survivor in other ways, too. Duran Duran were the darlings of the 80s New Romantics scene and, despite a few major hiccups, they are still going strong.

Currently on tour in the US, Simon and keyboardist Nick Rhodes are today taking time out to reflect on the band they grew up with.

It is almost 25 years since Simon and Nick, along with John Taylor, Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor (none related), sported frilly shirts, eye-liner and floppy fringes to form one of the world's biggest pop bands.

And it is 19 years since the original line-up drifted apart. By 1986 Roger and Andy had quit, and 10 years later John followed suit. Simon and Nick kept the Duran Duran flag flying. And they did it in style, winning their third Ivor Novello songwriting award in the early 90s for Ordinary World, from The Wedding Album.

Ironically, playing the 1985 Live Aid concert, their biggest ever gig, was the beginning of the end for the band who'd had 30 hit singles, including Hungry Like The Wolf, Rio, Girls On Film, Wild Boys and the Bond theme A View To A Kill.

"We just fell apart," says Simon. "It was the pressure of the business side of things and the fact we'd been living together for 18 hours a day for the past five years.

"Nick and I wanted to perform in London, but Andy and John were on tour in America with their other band, Power Station, so we had to play the Live Aid concert in Philadelphia.

"With Power Station they were hot, but we wouldn't get the same vibe from them.

I REMEMBER feeling jealous. I didn't want to see my bass player and my guitarist playing with someone else."

Then in 2001, in the wake of an '80s revival, they decided to try again.

Nick says, "There's something about the five of us being together that just clicks.

"It took us a long time to realise that. Until the new album it had been a long time since we'd recorded together, but it didn't feel that way.

"When we got into the studio and picked up our instruments it felt like no time had passed at all."

What followed next surpassed all expectations. Suddenly the band that snootier music critics had written off as a bad joke, were back in vogue.

Once again they were playing international tours and selling out stadium after stadium. And they are continuing to build on that success.

Their current album Astronaut shot into the UK charts at No 3. They were invited on one of America's biggest programmes, Jay Leno's Tonight Show. And they are filming the video for their forthcoming single What Happens Tomorrow.

Clearly Simon and Nick are enjoying every minute of their resurgent popularity. Yet although the public has welcomed their return with open arms, the pop establishment is still holding back.

Duran Duran are yet to be honoured with a place in the Uk Music Hall Of Fame, alongside Morrissey and George Michael.

SIMON is obviously needled by this slight. "The people behind these things are up their own backsides anyway," he says.

"Their idea of rock 'n' roll is a bunch of old geezers in dinner suits accepting each others pats on the back. It makes me feel a bit sick."

Nick adds, "We've always annoyed the rock establishment anyway. Who can blame them - we were a band of teenagers from Birmingham wearing make-up with a large following of pretty girls."

Fortunately they have never encountered such problems in the States where the band has always enjoyed a big following.

Asked how they managed to conquer America where the likes of Robbie Williams failed, Simon replies, "Robbie's not given America anything they don't already have. I think that's what we did.

"Bands like Oasis haven't made it but there have been success stories - Coldplay and Radiohead have done very well."

Despite being veterans, Nick and Simon still keep a close eye on what's new in the music scene.

For their album Astronaut they used hot producers Dallas Austin and Don Gilmore, who between them have worked with Usher, Linkin Park, Pink, Pearl Jam, and Madonna.

Earlier this year Duran Duran toured Australia with Robbie Williams, and in the UK they were supported by funky New Yorkers the Scissor Sisters.

"There are a lot of exciting bands at the moment - Franz Ferdinand, the Scissor Sisters and Keane," says Nick. "The public want someone with soul, they don't want people performing songs written by someone else. They want to hear people pouring their heart out."

A collaboration with a young pretender isn't out of the question either, but not just yet.

Simon says, "We wanted to keep this album just the five of us."

And so Duran Duran have become the elder statesmen of the music scene.

These days they may use less hairspray, forego the frilly shirts and attract older groupies, but deep down the Wild Boy attitude remains the same.

"All we've ever wanted is to be part of the scene," concludes Simon. "Hopefully our new stuff is helping us do that."

Right on cue a teenage fan interrupts the interview begging for an autograph. She wasn't even born when Duran Duran were first in the charts, but she loves them all the same.

That's the beauty of lasting relationships - just ask Simon.

 Courtesy The Mirror, UK