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. The Police debuted the song on live television on the BBC's Rock Goes to College, filmed at Hatfield Polytechnic College in Hertfordshire, England.The Police donated all money earned from the show to the school.
The single was The Police's first number one hit in the United Kingdom, but only reached number 74 in the United States. An alternate "Classic Rock" mix is available on Every Breath You Take: The Classics. This is Sting's favourite song as confessed to Jools Holland of BBC fame.
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 (who described the track as a personal favourite in his book One Train Later) and Kanye Westperforming a rap verse over the chorus of the song.
Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 65 on their list of the "100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time".
- Crossover thrash band Excel on their 1989 album The Joke's on You.
- Punk band Leatherface on their 1991 album Mush.
- Thrash metal band Machine Head on their 1999 album The Burning Red.
- Filipino rock band Wolfgang included a live version on their 2001 album Black Mantra.
- Pop-rock artist John Mayer often covers the son during his live performances. A recorded performance appears on hist 2003 album Any Given Thursday.
- Sander van Doorn released the song under his alias Filterfunk in 2005 as "S.O.S. (Message in a Bottle)".
- Hasidic reggae singer Matisyahu covered the song with an additional verse for his 2006 record No Place to Be.
- Rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars covered the song live in 2006. The performance was released on their EP AOL Sessions Undercover.
- The John Butler Trio covered it live in 2007 on Europe2 TV.
- Filipino band named The Dawn on their 2008 album The Later Half of Day.
- African American rapper Pastor Troy sampled the background in his 2008 song "Street Law".
- Rap artist Charles Hamilton samples it heavily in the song "Verbal Vicodin", off the 2008 mix tape Intervention.
- Metal band Graveworm released a cover on the 2009 album Diabolical Figures.
- Natasha Bedingfield covered it on her 2011 Less Is More Tour.
- Morgan Page released his own version of the song on his 2012 studio album, In the Air.
- Swedish jazz guitarist Ulf Wakenius released a version on his 2012 album Vagabond, featuring singer Na Yoon-sun.
- Lower Than Atlantis covered the song in 2013 prior to their UK tour.
- The song is featured as a playable cover track in the video game Guitar Hero II for the PS2 and Xbox 360, a playable track in Rock Band Unplugged for the PlayStation Portable, and also appears in the gamesGuitar Hero: Smash Hits for full band play and Guitar Rock Tour for the Nintendo DS, iPhone and Java ME. It is also a downloadable track for the Rock Band series as a master track.
- "Message in a Bottle" is the closing song of the documentary film Bring on the Night, which documents the forming of Sting's first band after going solo. Sting performs the song as the encore of the Paris concert that is featured throughout the film. The song is performed as a solo number with Sting accompanying himself on a white Fender Telecaster.
- Sting also performs "Message in a Bottle" solo at the 1981 Amnesty International show The Secret Policeman's Other Ball, playing a black Stratocaster.
- Wayne Brady and Chip Esten would sing a version of the song in the game "Greatest Hits" on Whose Line Is It Anyway?
- The song plays during the theatrical trailer for the 2008 film Fool's Gold.
- Sting performed the song during the Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together telethon on 2 November 2012.
- The cover of chapter 703 in the manga series One Piece references the song, by saying "We'll send an SOS to the world".
- In 2012, the song was released as downloadable content for the game Rocksmith.
- "Message in a Bottle" (Edit) – 3:50
- "Landlord" – 3:09
|Australian Kent Music Report||5|
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|Belgian Singles Chart||6|
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|Dutch Singles Chart||2|
|French Singles Chart||3|
|German Singles Chart||35|
|Irish Singles Chart||1|
|Italian Singles Chart||21|
|New Zealand Singles Chart||11|
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|UK Singles Chart||1|
|US Billboard Hot 100||74|
|UK Singles Chart||13|
|Dutch Top 40||37|
|Belgian VRT Top 30||53|
|Spanish Singles Chart||6|
|Canadian RPM Top Singles||34|
|Australian Kent Music Report||40|
|Italian Singles Chart||80|