1

In the lyrics of the song Black Crow Blues, one line reads "(I was) listening to the billboard knock". What does the word "knock" here mean? I've looked it up in several dictionaries, but I don't think any of the given meanings fit the context. Can you help me and tell me the answer? Thanks a lot.

Also, if there is any error or incorrect word use in the question I raised, please correct me. Thanks again!

  • This is already here in a brief answer, but the secret is in the last verse of the song: Black crows in the meadow Sleeping across a broad highway / Black crows in the meadow ... I'm out of touch, don't feel much / Like a Scarecrow today. So yes, it's from a knocker meant to deter birds (also what scarecrows are for). – RaceYouAnytime May 6 '17 at 22:58
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Bob Dylan:

l was standin' at the side road \ Listenin' to the billboard knock

Nick Cave, (And the Ass Saw the Angel, pub 2009):

Ah [dialectal "I"] sat in the rain, by the petrol station, listening to the Texaco billboard knock above the pumps on the count of three each time the wind hit it

The two contexts are sufficiently similar that we can assume it's the same sense of billboard knock. The billboard is a hanging sign, that sways in the wind (and knocks against nearby walls, etc.).

6

I'm just old enough to remember when some billboards had knockers, or some other wind driven noise maker. They were intended to annoy the pigeons and attract attention to the sign from pedestrians, but typically did the reverse.

Hope that helps.

  • If you remember it then (unless you're so old your memories cant be trusted) I can hardly disagree. I must say I'd have thought people living nearby would quite justifiably kick up a stink if some commercial outlet deliberately installed such a noisy sign (that couldn't even be turned off in the middle of the night). But +1 for the idea, even if it seems slightly unlikely to me here in Sleepy Hollow, England. – FumbleFingers Nov 10 '14 at 22:22
  • @FumbleFingers: On routes in the US back then there were seldom people living near billboards, I think. – Drew Nov 11 '14 at 6:06
  • @Drew: Yeah - a gas station miles from anywhere, for example. But how would a noisy sign in such a location attract passing pedestrians? – FumbleFingers Nov 11 '14 at 12:59
  • @FumbleFingers: I'm no expert/reference in this matter. ;-) But out there in Kansasland, far from Oz, you can hear the sunflowers grow. And in Iowaland you can hear the corn grow. This was a time before interstate highways, when there were only little 2-lane routes, with Burma Shave signs and such. Next gas station 60 miles... – Drew Nov 11 '14 at 14:44
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Maybe the expression ”listening to the billboard knock” refers to contemporary pop muzak. The type of commercial music that climbed to the top of the Billboard list in the early sixties.

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