This song is about a guy stranded on a remote island. One day he finds a bottle, puts a message in it and throws it out to sea in hopes that someone will find it and come save him. The lyrics can be seen as a metaphor for being lonely and realizing there are lots of people just like you. (thanks, Sid - Bryson City, NC)
Sting (from 1000 UK #1 Hits
by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh): "I think the lyrics are subtle and well crafted enough to hit people on a different level from something you just sing along to. It's quite a cleverly put together metaphor. It develops and has an artistic shape to it." Guitarist Andy Summers said it was the best track he ever played on.
Until they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this was the last song The Police played together. After breaking up in 1986, they performed it at Sting's wedding to Trudie Styler in 1992. Sting, Stewart Copeland, and Andy Summers were all a little drunk and didn't play it very well, but the guests loved it. In 2003, The Police got together again for the induction ceremonies, where they played this along with "Roxanne
" and "Every Breath You Take
This was the first UK #1 hit for The Police. Their first two albums were much bigger in their native England than in the US.
Sting wrote in Lyrics By Sting: "I was pleased that I'd managed a narrative song with a beginning, a middle, and some kind of philosophical resolution in the final verse. If I'd been a more sophisticated songwriter, I would have probably illuminated this change of mood by modulating the third verse into a different key. But it worked anyway."
This was the first single from the second Police album, Reggatta De Blanc (which means "White Reggae"). The single was released shortly before the album came out.
The first person to hear the guitar riff for this song was not a person at all, but Sting's dog. "I used to play it over and over again to my dog in our basement flat in Bayswater," Sting wrote in Lyrics By Sting, "and he would stare at me with that look of hopeless resignation dogs can have when they're waiting for their walk in the park. Was it that hopeless look that provoked the idea of the island castaway and his bottle? I don't know, but the song sounded like a hit the first time we played it. The dog finally got his walk, and this song was our first number-one in the UK."
This was the first ever UK #1 for the A&M label, which Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss founded in 1962.
The Police boxed set is called Message In A Box as a reference to this song.
This is on the soundtrack to the 1982 movie The Secret Policeman's Other Ball.
Sting performed this with No Doubt at halftime of the 2003 Super Bowl between the Bucs and Raiders. No Doubt lead singer Gwen Stefani came out and sang with him about midway through. Stefani inducted Police into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later that year.
Industrial metal band Machinehead covered this on their 1999 album The Burning Red (thanks, Torbjørn - Trondheim, Norway)
There is a 1999 film by the same name starring Kevin Costner, Robin Wright Penn, and Paul Newman that is not directly connected to this song. (thanks, Mike - Mountlake Terrace, WA)
It may surprise you to learn that the song was influenced by the church music that Sting used to sing as a child. He explained in Isle of Noises
by Daniel Rachel: "I used to sing Gregorian chants and plainsong as an altar boy. A lot of my melodies might reflect that love and my early exposure to that stark, melodic narrative. 'Message In A Bottle' reflects that, too."
This was used on several TV shows, including Ballykissangel, in the 1996 episode "Fallen Angel"; in Doctors, in the 2011 episode "Message in a Bottle"; and in The Office (US), in the 2007 episode "Phyllis' Wedding."