Message In A Bottle (song)

From PoliceWiki
"Message In A Bottle"
US single cover
Recorded by The Police
Released: 1979-09-07 (UK)

1979-10-25 (Japan)

Recorded: summer of 1979
Length: 4:51
Album(s): Reggatta de Blanc
Label(s): A&M
Writer(s): Sting
Producer(s): Stewart Copeland, Sting, Andy Summers, Nigel Gray
Studio(s): A&M
Released as single? YES

"Message In A Bottle" is a song written by Sting and recorded by The Police in 1979.

About the song

The liner notes for My Songs mention this: Sting: “I wrote the guitar riff for ‘Message In A Bottle’ on my black Fender Strat in the back of a noisy van heading south on an Autobahn between Düsseldorf and Nuremberg sometime in early ’79. I immediately knew that I was onto something with this circular riff, starting with an arpeggiated C#9, repeated in A9, then to B9, and finally F#9 resolving back to the beginning. It took me a while to find the right lyrical subject, but after a few false starts back home in my basement in Bayswater, a story emerged from the rising and falling tide of the music of some kind of Robinson Crusoe character stranded on a desert island and throwing a hopeful bottle out to sea. The countless bottles that are washed up in response continue to be a resonant and grateful metaphor in my life, but like all great rock’n’roll stories, it began with a riff.”

So when exactly was that song created ? On 1978-05-27 The Police performed with Eberhard Schoener in Düsseldorf and then drove back to Munich, passing Nuremberg that way. They drove in a small VW van. With maybe just enough space for Sting to do some composing in the back. But did he have his black Stratocaster back then? Money was an issue as it wasn't there yet :) And did they really have "Message In A Bottle" that early, but didn't consider recording it for Outlandos d'Amour?

On 1979-01-12 The Police played with Eberhard Schoener in Düsseldorf again, but drove to Hamburg afterwards - in a large bus. This contradicts the "Düsseldorf - Nuremberg" and the noisy van memories. But I'm pretty sure that this is the right date for the birth of "Message In A Bottle". Sting's memory was right regarding "early '79" and "Düsseldorf", but mixed up the destinations and vehicles they were in.

Stewart Copeland remembers that Sting got his black Stratocaster at a shopping spree where he bought his own cream coloured Stratocaster - at Manny's in New York. His memory also mixes things up as he connects this shopping spree to the "My Father's Place" gig - the one on 1979-10-02. But this particular guitar can already be seen in photos from the summer of 1979. Pretty sure there were several shopping sprees at Manny's :) Sting definitely bought the fretless Fender there in October 1978. By then the band had sold some singles, received money from Eberhard Schoener and he himself had landed a part in the Quadrophenia movie.

This 1979-01-12 date however would leave a tiny problem - was there enough time to develop the song until its live premiere on 1979-02-21 at Hatfield Polytechnic? The German tour with Eberhard lasted until February 1. The band then did some TV appearances and had about 4 days off in London until they started recording " Reggatta de Blanc" on 1979-02-13.

Stewart Copeland is pretty sure that not much time elapsed since Sting wrote the song and its live premiere. The band immediately worked on it as it was an "instant hit within the band".

So 1979-01-13 - that's the day Sting created the riff for "Message In A Bottle" - in the back of a large bus en route from Düsseldorf to Hamburg - a conclusion of many faulty memories :)

... and guess what? Sting got the idea for Low Life the very next night at Hamburg's Reeperbahn....



This ad was printed in Record Mirror / NME / Melody Maker (September 15, 1979): 1979 09 15 Melody Maker Message ad.jpg

Release History


"Message In A Bottle" appears on the following album releases:

Cover art Album title Release date Release country
Police-album-reggattadeblanc.jpg Reggatta de Blanc 1979-10-02 United Kingdom
Police-album-everybreathyoutakethesingles.jpg Every Breath You Take: The Singles 1986 United Kingdom
Police-album-greatesthits.jpg Greatest Hits 1992-10-02 United Kingdom
Police-album-messageinaboxthecompleterecordings.jpg Message In A Box: The Complete Recordings 1993-09-30 United Kingdom
Police-album-live!.jpg The Police Live! 1995-06-13 United Kingdom
Police-album-everybreathyoutaketheclassics.jpg Every Breath You Take: The Classics 1995-09-12 United States
Police-album-thepolice.jpg The Police 2007-06-11 United States


CD Singles

Cover art Catalog no. Songs Release date Release country
Stub.gif Catalog no. "Song"(s) YYYY-MM-DD Country

7" Singles

Cover art Catalog no. A-side song/B-side song Release date Release country
Police-messageinabottle-am2190.gif A&M 2190 "Message In A Bottle"/"Landlord (live)" 1979 United States
2019 04 13 Message In A Bottle cover.jpg AMS 7474 "Message In A Bottle"/"Landlord"/"Message In A Bottle" (new classic rock mix)/"Message In A Bottle" (instrumental) 2019-04-13 worldwide

12" Singles

Cover art Catalog no. A-side song(s)/B-side song(s) Release date Release country
Radiosample.jpg SAMP 5 "The Bed's Too Big Without You"/"So Lonely"/"Can't Stand Losing You"/"Roxanne"/"Message In A Bottle"/"Walking On The Moon" 1980-MM-DD UK


"Message In A Bottle" appears on the following video and dvd releases:

Cover art Video title Release date Release country
Police-aroundtheworld.jpg Around the World 1983-02-01 United Kingdom
Police-outlandostosynchronicities.jpg Outlandos to Synchronicities: A History of The Police Live! 1995-05-01 United Kingdom
Live Ghost In The Machine DVD.jpg Live Ghost In The Machine 2001-10-01 Japan


This section needs more information.

Country Certifier Classification Certification
COUNTRY CERTIFIER (RIAA, IFPI...) CLASSIFICATION (Album, singles, foreign artist...) CERTIFICATION (Gold, Platinum, Diamond...)


Lyrics are property and copyright of their owners, and provided here for educational purposes only.

Just a castaway
An island lost at sea
Another lonely day
With no one here but me
More loneliness
Than any man could bear
Rescue me before I fall into despair

I'll send an SOS to the world
I'll send an SOS to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle

A year has passed since I wrote my note
But I should have known this right from the start
Only hope can keep me together
Love can mend your life
But love can break your heart

I'll send an SOS to the world
I'll send an SOS to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle

Walked out this morning
Don't believe what I saw
A hundred billion bottles
Washed up on the shore
Seems I'm not alone at being alone
A hundred billion castaways
Looking for a home

I'll send an SOS to the world
I'll send an SOS to the world
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
I hope that someone gets my
Message in a bottle

Quotations and trivia

The original band photo on the UK's 7" single cover was shot by James Wedge. Rod Shone took the other two photos - the front cover one with broken glass on top of a print of James Wedge's photo - and the back cover photo. Both were done in a great hurry at the offices of A&M Records. The water on the reverse was in a white photographic tray and the waves were made by using an air brush to make a quick flow of air which disturbed the water . Rod Shone used a Vivitar flash held off camera and a Hasselblad camera.The writing on the paper is the handwriting of A&M art director Mike Ross. The green colour was achieved by putting a green gel (a clear coloured plastic material) over the light source.

Alternative and cover versions

Alternative versions

  • the single version is only 3:50 minutes long
  • Message In A Bottle (new classic rock mix) - this new mix was used on 1995 best of CDs in the USA (an in-house CD-R acetate from A&M in the UK uses the original name 'Phil Nicolo '95 Remix' for the same mix) 1995 CD-R acetate Phil Nicolo 95 remix cover.jpg and appeared again on the 2019-04-13 Record Store Day 2 x 7" single release

Cover versions

Cover versions of Message In A Bottle appear on the following album releases:

Cover art Artist Album title Release date Release country
Reggatta Mondatta.jpg Maxi Priest Reggatta Mondatta 1997-MM-DD The Netherlands
Vinyl.png Machine Head The Burning Red 1999 USA
Policia cover.jpg Watashi Wa Policia! A Tribute To The Police 2005-MM-DD USA

See also

External links

This section needs more information.