Message in a Bottle (song)

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"Message in a Bottle"
Single by The Police
from the album Reggatta de Blanc
B-side "Landlord"
Released September 1979
Format 7" single
Recorded 1979
Genre
Length 4:50
Label A&M
Writer(s) Sting
Producer(s)
Certification Gold (BPI)
The Police singles chronology
"So Lonely"
(1978)
"Message in a Bottle"
(1979)
"Walking on the Moon"
(1979)
Alternative cover
U.S. 7-inch cover
Audio sample
file info · help

"Message in a Bottle" is a song by English rock band The Police, from their second studio album, Reggatta de Blanc. Written by Sting; the song is ostensibly about a story of a castaway on an island, who sends out a message in a bottle to seek love. A year later, he has not received any sort of response, and despairs, thinking he is destined to be alone. The next day, he sees "a hundred billion bottles" on the shore, finding out that there are more people like him out there.

Rolling Stone ranked it number 65 on its list of the "100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time".

Background[edit]

According to the band's guitarist, Andy Summers, the guitar riff that "Message in a Bottle" is centered around was originally used for a different song.[1] During the band's first American tour, however, he reworked the song and slightly altered the riff, becoming the final version of the song. In addition to the core riff, Summers came up with, as Sting described, "lovely arpeggiated shiver" during the break prior to the third verse.[1] Sting praised this addition saying, "He'd [Summers] do that - the song would be quite raw and he'd just add these lovely colours."[1] Stewart Copeland's drumming, praised as his "finest drum track" by Summers, was "overdubbed [from] about six different parts."[1]

The Police debuted the song on live television on the BBC's Rock Goes to College, filmed at Hatfield Polytechnic College in Hertfordshire, England.[2] The Police donated all money earned from the show to the school.

The song was released as the first single from Reggatta de Blanc in September 1979. The song was a massive success in Britain, becoming The Police's first number one hit in the UK Singles Chart,.[3] Despite its popularity in the U.K., the single only reached number 74 in the United States. An alternative "classic rock" mix is available on Every Breath You Take: The Classics.

The song's B-side, "Landlord," was written by Sting (lyrics) and Copeland (music). Sting said of its inspiration, "I wrote that after Frances and I were thrown out of the house we were renting in London. I hated the idea of somebody fucking my life up like that. Stewart [Copeland] wrote the music."[1] The song originally featured lyrics by Copeland, but they were replaced by Sting's.[1]

"Message in a Bottle" is also a personal favourite of the members of the band. In addition to saying it was his favourite song in an interview with Jools Holland of the BBC, Sting described it as a "good song," and also said that he was "very proud" of it.[1][4] Copeland said it was "one of our [The Police's] best moments in the studio and always great on stage."[1] Summers described the track as a personal favourite in his book One Train Later, and said, "For me, it's still the best song Sting ever came up with and the best Police track."[1]

'Message In A Bottle' is a good song. That can move me. I like the idea that while it's about loneliness and alienation it's also about finding solace and other people going through the same thing. The guy's on a desert island and throws a bottle out to sea saying he's alone and all these millions of bottles come back saying, So what So am I! I like the fact that the whole deal is clinched by the third verse. It makes a journey.

—Sting, Q, 11/1993[1]

The Police performed at Live Earth, a 2007 charity concert to raise awareness of global warming and other environmental hazards, and performed "Message in a Bottle" as the US finale, with John Mayer playing guitar with Andy Summers and Kanye West performing a rap verse over the chorus of the song.

Composition[edit]

The song exemplifies the reggae/post-punk style of early Police. It is composed in the key of C-sharp minor with a chord progression of C#m9-Amaj9-B7-F#m. The song's structure is verse-chorus-verse-chorus-outro.

Personnel[edit]

Track listing[edit]

A&M / AMS 7474
  1. "Message in a Bottle" (edit) – 3:50 (This edit has yet to appear on CD anywhere)
  2. "Landlord" – 3:09

Charts[edit]

Chart (1979–80) Peak
position
Australian Kent Music Report[5] 5
Austrian Top 40[6] 24
Belgian Singles Chart 6
Canadian RPM Top Singles[7] 2
Dutch Singles Chart[6] 2
French Singles Chart 3
German Singles Chart[6] 35
Irish Singles Chart 1
Italian Singles Chart 21
New Zealand Singles Chart[6] 11
South African Singles Chart 5
Spanish Singles Chart 1
Swedish Singles Chart[6] 20
UK Singles Chart[3] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[8] 74

Year-end chart[edit]

Chart (1979) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart 13
Dutch Top 40 37
Belgian VRT Top 30 53
French Singles Chart[9] 19
Chart (1980) Peak
position
Spanish Singles Chart 6
Canadian RPM Top Singles 34
Australian Kent Music Report 40
Italian Singles Chart 80

Samples and covers[edit]

Appearances in other media[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "'Message in a Bottle' / 'Landlord'". sting.com. 
  2. ^ Shaun Keaveny (2010). R2D2 Lives in Preston: The Best of BBC 6 Music's Toast the Nation!. p. 125. Pan Macmillan,
  3. ^ a b "POLICE | Artist". Official Charts. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  4. ^ Robinson, Joe. "Top 10 Police Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. 
  5. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Steffen Hung. "The Police - Message In A Bottle". swedishcharts.com. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  7. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  8. ^ "The Police - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  9. ^ http://www.top-france.fr/html/annuel/1980.htm
  10. ^ "John Butler Trio - Message in a bottle". YouTube. 14 March 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  11. ^ A message from Guy. Mount Franklin Water. Archived from the original on 7 December 2012.
  12. ^ "Guitar Hero® Smash Hits". Archived from the original on 2 January 2010. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Cars" by Gary Numan
UK number one single
29 September 1979 – 13 October 1979
Succeeded by
"Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles