Friday, September 21, 1979

The Police charted with “Message in a Bottle”

Message in a Bottle

The Police

Writer(s): Sting (see lyrics here)

Released: September 21, 1979

First Charted: September 22, 1979

Peak: 74 US, 62 CB, 80 HR, 2 CL, 3 CO, 13 UK, 2 CN, 5 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 79.8 video, -- streaming

Awards (The Police version):

Awards (Sting version):

About the Song:

“Message in a Bottle” was the lead single from the Police’s second album, Reggatta De Blanc. It was the band’s first #1 in their native UK, where they’d also top the charts with “Walking on the Moon,” “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” and “Every Breath You Take.” In the U.S., the band wasn’t that big yet. “Roxanne,” from their first album, had gone top 40, but “Message in a Bottle” stalled at #74 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, bigger things were still to come. With their next three albums, the group would reach the top 10 in the U.S. six different times, including the #1 smash “Every Breath You Take.” The song also gained a following over the years. In fact, the Police opened their 2007 reunion concerts with the song.

Lyrically, the song unspools a tale of a lonely, island castaway who throws a message in a bottle into the ocean in hopes of finding someone. Only after determining he is destined to be alone, does he find “a hundred billion bottles washed up on the shore.” It’s then that the song’s narrator realizes, as he says in the song, “It seems I’m not alone in being alone.”

In an interview on the BBC, Sting said it was his favorite song. He told Q magazine, “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.” WK Musically, he explained that the song grew out of Gregorian chants he used to sing as an altar boy. SF Drummer Stewart Copeland said it was one of the band’s “best moments in the studio and always great on stage.” WK Guitarist Andy Summers said, “for me, it’s still the best song Sting ever came up with.” WK

Before Sting launched his solo career, he performed a stripped-down, slower version of the song for The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball on September 9, 1981. It was the fourth benefit show staged by the British section of Amnesty International to raise funds and awareness regarding human rights.


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First posted 3/1/2020; last updated 12/26/2022.

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