Past The Mission

Album: Under The Pink (1994)
Charted: 31

Songfacts®:

  • "'Past the Mission' is about a girl who refuses to be a victim anymore," Tori Amos explained in a 1994 issue of the fan magazine Really Deep Thoughts. "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."
  • This is also about the singer's mission to reclaim her life after she was raped at 21, an experience that inspired her earlier tune "Me And A Gun." She told the St Louis Dispatch in 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.'"
  • This features backing vocals from Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, whom Tori befriended in the early '90s. According to Reznor, their relationship soured due to "some malicious meddling on the part of Courtney Love." Amos also mentions NIN's album Pretty Hate Machine on her Boys For Pele track "Caught A Lite Sneeze."
  • An aggressive industrial rocker like Reznor may seem like an odd choice for a song that requires a soft touch, but according to Amos, the "Hurt" singer was the only one who could pull it off. "The choice had to be somebody that represented rage and anger because this is all about a girl trying so hard to work through being a victim," Amos told the Virginian-Pilot. "I felt like for a guy to be supporting her, it had to be a guy that could rage, because then it would really mean something if he could be tender. Trent is... well, you can't be in all that much rage and pain unless you have a very big heart."
  • Under The Pink, Amos' second album, out-performed her debut, Little Earthquakes. It peaked at #1 in the UK and #12 in the US. In 1999, it reached double Platinum status in the US, selling more than 2 million copies.
  • While most of the album was written and recorded in New Mexico, this track was recorded in the Beverly Crest neighborhood of Los Angeles at 10050 Cielo Drive. The location is notorious for being the site of the murders of actress Sharon Tate and others by followers of Charles Manson. Trent Reznor rented the home in 1992, where he recorded NIN's album The Downward Spiral and invited Tori to record her track there. "It wasn't necessarily my choice to record 'Past the Mission' at the Tate House," she explained in the liner notes for the 2015 deluxe edition of the album. "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."
  • In the music video, directed by Jake Scott, Amos leads a group of women on a march through a village, where they're glared at by men and confronted by a priest who refuses to let them pass. In an act of defiance, the women lie down in the road and force the clergyman to step over their bodies to join the rest of the men. The women then continue their march to freedom.

    In a 2006 interview with Out Magazine, Amos explained how the video came together: "It was important to follow the bloodline of what that story was about. That was about the 'old world' coming to the 'new world' and saving all the 'savages.' This has always been a real discussion within my family because my father's side of the family came from Scotland and Ireland to save everybody. And my mother's side finds this all really amusing because they didn't think that they needed saving at all. So we talked about how to bring this to moving picture. Instead of following the trail of Cortez, we went back in the bloodline and we went back to Spain. And Jake Scott, the director, Ridley Scott's son, had found a village in Spain that was sort of frozen in time. And he had said that when he heard this song he really felt this undercurrent of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, which, of course, as a good minister's daughter, I'm always writing about that. So we decided to go back in time and create something."

    She continued: "And so I started off with that… I take each sonic and visual - it's a marriage - whether it's in the still photograph that you present with the sonic work, or the moving picture. And sometimes it's like a visual poem, or a short story. Each video is very different."
  • Tori explained the "strange bassoon sound" in the bridge was created by Styrofoam being pushed on the bottom end of the piano strings. She also played a Vox organ around the piano.

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