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Tea with the Waitress

Past the Mission

Lyrics by Tori Amos

I don't believe I went too far
I said I was willing willing willing
She said she knew what my books did not
I thought she knew what's up

Past the mission behind the prison tower
Past the mission I once knew a hot girl
Past the mission they're closing every hour
Past the mission I smell the roses

She said they all think they know him well
She knew him better better better
Everyone wanted something from him
I did too but I shut my mouth
He just gave me a smile

Past the mission behind the prison tower
Past the mission I once knew a hot girl
Past the mission they're closing every hour
Past the mission I smell the roses
Past the mission I smell the roses

Hey they found a body
Not sure it was his
still they're using his name
and she gave him shelter
and somewhere I know she knows
Somewhere I know she knows
Somethings only she knows

Past the mission behind the prison tower
Past the mission I once knew a hot girl
Past the mission they're closing every hour
Past the mission I smell the roses

Past the mission behind the prison tower
Past the mission I once knew a hot girl
Past the mission they're closing every hour
Past the mission I smell the roses
Past the mission I smell the roses
Past the mission I smell the roses

Additional lyrics from live performances

October 14, 2001

(intro to the "hey, they found a body" bridge)

and sandalwood
thousands of years
we anoint him

Tori Quotes

Directions were always interesting... "ok honey, what you gotta do is, you know the Wal-Mart? Well, keep going soon you'll see a road across from the Chevron, take a left and follow that road till you see a bright turquoisey painted bird house. It's right after the creek at the bird house. It's not the first dirt road but the second. Go on down past the mission and you wanna take a right and you can't miss it." [Under the Pink songbook - 1994]

We love Elton [John]. "Past the Mission" has -- yeah, I can see that. George Porter Jr. from the Meters played on the whole record, and there's a lot of him on that, as much as Carlo Nuccio from the bottom end. I did the piano vocal first, but they played the track, which gave it that -- especially in the verses, that New Orleans kind of church meets Otis Redding meets, and they had a lot to do with bringing that out of the piece itself. Trent, obviously, it's nothing like he does in his work, which I found an interesting choice, because it wasn't for him to sing on something that was his, why do that? "Past the Mission" is a love story. It's kind of a strange one in that it's me again, still trying to find pieces that I've left other places. It kind of breaks my heart when I hear him sing with me, "I once knew a hot girl." Where is she now? She can come back again. It's that same thing, where in "Pretty Good Year" and "Past the Mission" and "Space Dog," where everything is reclaimable. ... With "Past the Mission" there's hope. "Past the mission I smell the roses," and Trent sings on it. I wanted him to sing on it because of his energy. I love his work. "Past the Mission" wanted him to sing on it.

I think there's also a bit of the Mary Magdalene/Jesus relationship in "Past the Mission," because I was reading Holy Blood, Holy Grail at the time. It has a lot of thoughts. It's a very long book about a historical viewpoint on everything, with the Cathars and all that happened in the Pyrenees, and the Merovingian dynasty and the whole nine yards. It's an interesting read. It opened my mind up a bit. More than anything, it was the sexual relations, even if it's just with yourself, surrounding the oppression of the church, and that's where "Past the Mission" again -- it's really freeing to me, that song. I've always kind of -- there's no resolve, either. [Baltimore Sun - January 1994]

Of course I believe they [Jesus and Mary Magdalene] were together. Of course I believe they were a couple and that she understood things. She represents the Goddess, the female, the feminine, the joining, the equality. "Some things only she knows." And until we acknowledge that there are some things only she knows; and there's some things only he knows, too; and until we have mutual respect, there's that prison tower, and there's that mission (church), and the hot girl got lost somewhere in between. [Access - February 1994]

The trouble in the churches is what I sing about in "Past the Mission." But there's also a lot of hope in that song because "Past the mission I smell the roses." There is a denouncement, I think, in this whole earth life. I'm not going to say -- although I think R.E.M.'s right that it is the end of the world as we know it -- that I think it's really showing itself as that. But "Past the mission I once knew a hot girl..." Where is she? Where did she bury herself? Again, it's trying to find the pieces of myself that I have numbed over the years. And there is life past the mission. [Schwann Spectrum - Spring 1994]

Who's the man in prison in "Past the Mission"?

The man who dies.

Are you the hot girl in that song?

Yeah, but also wondering, how do you get that back again? That part of you that hid in the holly bushes, as your father walked by after church. It's finding it -- the hot girl -- in you. [BAM - March 11, 1994]

This is "Past the Mission." In New Mexico, there's a big Pueblo nation there, Native American. And there are a lot of missions where the Spanish, the Conquistadors, came in. And they really stripped the native peoples of their culture and forced them to worship. And when I saw the missions, you just see. They're very beautiful but this is where a whole culture was really lost. [Simon Mayo Show - March 30, 1994]

Under the Pink made its debut this spring at No. 12.

It's a good feeling. I didn't know what this record was going to do.

That's partly because she was putting divergent elements into her songs.

Like in "Past the Mission," I was putting three totally different structures together: the verse, chorus and the bridge belonged to different things.

When she played an early version of it to a musician friend, he said he didn't think it worked.

And, I'm like: "That's your opinion. I mean, I was playing Chopin when you were peeing in your bed, so see ya!" I'm sorry, but sometimes you have to get a little protective. Or you put nothing out. [Star Tribune - July 10, 1994]

I wanted to keep the piano at the center while I experimented with different sounds. I mean, that was the whole idea. What arrangements can the piano hold? And through the whole process, we learned the piano can pretty much take anything. It's just this choice, like in that bridge of "Past the Mission," I'm playing a Vox organ around the piano, and Eric had styrofoam being pushed on the bottom end of the strings of the piano to create that strange bassoon sound. So there was a bit of prepared piano experimenting that we really didn't take as far as we really wanted to because we were short on time. [St Louis Dispatch - July 15, 1994]

"Past the Mission" refers to a personal experience with sexual violence, which I had a song about on Little Earthquakes also. So, the remark "I once knew a hot girl" is painful. Where's she gone? On this record there are songs about the healing from that experience, like "Baker Baker" ("Make me whole again"), "Past the Mission," "Yes, Anastasia." The idea is to rescue myself from the role of a victim. That I have a choice left. Though I can't change what has happened, I can choose how to react. And I don't want to spend the rest of my life being bitter and locked up. That's also the thought behind the phrase "past the mission I smell the roses" [St Louis Dispatch - July 15, 1994]

Some things only She knows. There is a power that the feminine energy holds that hasn't been claimed, especially in religious mythology. "Past the Mission" is claiming that, I guess. [The West Australian - August 11, 1994]

There is also this huge underlying Holy Blood, Holy Grail theme in this song. What the Holy Grail was, the Blood Royal, was Mary Magdalene coming on a boat to the Mediterranean south of France carrying Jesus' baby -- the King of the Jews. [Upside Down #5]

"Past the Mission" is about a girl who refuses to be a victim anymore. But she has to face a lot of thought patterns to do that. I wrote this when I was reading the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail. It talks about different theories on Christ. It talks a lot about Mary Magdalene. It's an underlying theme about how the church, the mission, has suppressed all this truth down through the years -- the Goddess energy. They refer to Mary Magdalene as the Black Madonna. She had this cult following in France. They believe that she came to the shores pregnant. When they say the Holy Grail, they mean the Holy Blood, the Blood Royal in her body, Jesus' baby. And some scholars believe this. The other parts don't necessarily ring right, but there have been these secret societies. That's what I'm talking about also in "Space Dog." There are loads of secret societies, this is only one of them. [Really Deep Thoughts - Winter 1995]

I always loved what he did, so "Past the Mission" said to me, "I want Trent [Reznor] to sing on me." And I said, "I'm sure you do." And, so, I made the call, and he was, uh, "open to that." And we, uh, did it at his house, you know, the old Tate House... [CFNY - Fall 1995]

It wasn't necessarily my choice to record "Past the Mission" at the Tate House [the site of the Charles Manson murders]. I felt that Trent was the right voice to sing on the song and he was working there and so I went. When I drove up to the house, it was very strange because you know the information, and yet it's hard to believe that something so gruesome happened there. It didn't feel gruesome at all. It felt welcoming and creative. There was no sign that said, "This horrific thing happened here." Some artists can tap into things and create in a space knowing that kind of information. I wouldn't have been able to spend the night there. [Under the Pink Deluxe Edition liner notes - 2015]

from the Under the Pink music folio

Live Versions

"Past the Mission"
March 8, 1994 - France

"Past the Mission"
November 14, 1998 - New York, New York
Sessions at West 54th

"Past the Mission"
October 7, 2001 - Washington, D.C.

"Past the Mission"
November 26, 2017 - Oakland, California

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