Q. John, what have you been doing?

A. I've been baking bread and looking after the baby.

Q. Why did you become a househusband?

A. . . . Rock 'n' Roll was not fun anymore. I chose not to take the standard options in my business -- going to Vegas and singing your great hits, if you're lucky, or going to hell, which is where Elvis went. . .

Q. Why are you returning to the studio and public life?

A. You breathe in and you breathe out. . .

Q. Why is it so unthinkable that the Beatles might get back together to make some music?

A. . . . Why should the Beatles give more? Didn't they give everthing on God's earth for 10 years? Didn't they give themselves? . . . What is this game of doing things because other people want it? The whole Beatle idea was to do what you want, right? To take your own responsibility. . . iI'll be 40 when this interview comes out. Paul is 38. Elton John, Bob Dylan, we're all relatively young people. The game isn't over yet . . . God willing, there are another 40 years of productivity to go.

q. . . . What did each of you contribute to the Lennon-McCartney songwriting team?

A. Well, you could say that he provided a lightness, an optimism, while I would always go for the sadness, the discords, a certain bluesy edge. . .

Q. . . . Haven't you said that you wrote most of your songs separately, despite putting both of your names on them?

A. Yeah, I was lying. . . Actually, a lot of the songs we did eyeball to eyeball.

Q. . . . Let's move on to Ringo. What's your opinion of him musically?

A. Ringo was a star in his own right in Liverpool before we even met. . .

Ringo is a damn good drummer. . . I think Paul and Ringo stand up with any of the rock musicians. Not technically great -- none of us are technical musicians. But as pure musicians, as inspired humans who make the noise, they are as good as anybody.

Q. . . . You actually haven't mentioned George much.

A. Well, I was hurt by George's book, I, Me, Mine -- so this message will go to him. He put a book out privately on his life that, by glaring omission, says that my influence on his life is absolutely zilch. . . George's relationship with me was one of young follower and older guy. He's three or four years younger than me. It's a love-hate relationship, and I think George still bears resentment toward me for being a daddy who left home. . . When George was a kid, he used to follow me and my first girlfriend, Cynthia -- who became my wife -- around. We'd come out of art school and he'd be hovering around like those kids at the gate of the Dakota now.

Q. On the subject of your own wealth, the New York Post recently said you admitted to being worth over $150,000,000 and --

A. We never admitted anything . . . okay, so we are rich; so what?

Q. . . . About your separation from Yoko --

A. . . . She kicked me out. . . I was just insane. . . It was the lost weekend that lasted 18 months. I've never drunk so much in my life . . . and I was with the heaviest drinkers in the business.

Q. Such as?

A. Such as Harry Nilsson, Bobby Keyes, Keith Moon. We couldn't pull ourselves out. We were trying to kill ourselves. I think Harry might still be trying -- God bless you Harry, wherever you are -- but, Jesus, you know, I had to get away from that, because somebody was going to die. Well, Keith did. It was like, who's going to die first? Unfortunately, Keith was the one.

Q. What are your musical preferences these days?

A. . . . I love all this punky stuff. It's pure. I'm not, however, crazy about the people who destroy themselves. . . I hate it. It's better to fade away like an old soldier than to burn out. I don't appreciate worship of dead Sid Vicious or of dead James Dean or dead John Wayne. It's the same thing. Making Sid Vicious a hero, Jim Morrison -- it's garbage to me. I worship the people who survive. Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo.

Q. How does it feel to have influenced so many people?

A. It wasn't really me or us. It was the times. . . It was the time and the place when the Beatles came up. Something did happen there. It was kind of chemical. It was as if several people gathered around a table and a ghost appeared. It was that kind of communication. So they were like mediums. . . Whatever wind was blowing at the time moved the Beatles, too. I'm not saying we weren't flags on the top of the ship, but the whole boat was moving. . .

Q. Did it trouble you . . . when Charles Manson claimed that your lyrics were messages to him?

A. No. It has nothing to do with me. It's like that guy, Son of Sam, who was having these talks with the dog. Manson was just an extreme example of the people who came up with the "Paul is dead" thing. . .

Q. . . . It's interesting to hear you talk about your old songs. . . Will you give some brief thoughts on some of your favorites?

A. Right.

Q. "When I'm 64"?

A. Paul completely. I would never ever dream of writing a song like that.

Q. What memories are jogged by the song "Help!"?

A. . . . When the Beatles were depressed, we had this little chant. I would yell out, "Where are we going, fellows?" They would say, "To the top, Johnny," in pseudo-American voices. . . . And I would say, "Where is that fellows?" And they would say, "To the toppermost of the poppermost". . . The Beatles thing had just gone beyond comprehension.

Q. "Getting Better"?

A. It's a diary. . . . All that "I used to be cruel to my women, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved" was me. . . I was a hitter. . . . But I sincerely believe in love and peace. I am a violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence. I will have to be a lot older before I can face in public how I treated women as a youngster.

Q. When you returned to the studio . . . some of your fans were saying things like, "Just as Lennon defined the '60s and the '70s, he'll be defining the '80s."

A. . . . If the Beatles or the '60s had a message, it was to learn to swim. Period. And once you learn to swim, swim.

Q. . . . What is the '80s dream to you, John?

A. Well, you make your own dream. That's the Beatles story, isn't it? That's Yoko's story. That's what I'm saying now. Produce your own dream. t

Q. What is it that keeps people from accepting that message?

A. it's fear of the unknown. The unknown is what it is. And to be frightened of it is what sent everybody scurrying around chasing dreams, illusions, wars, peace, love, hate, all that -- it's all illusion.