I grew up at West Point NY, right on the Military Academy Grounds. Just outside the South Gate of the Academy was the town of Highland Falls NY. In the summer of 1975 Billy Joel moved into Highland Falls to write his “Turnstiles” album. One of the songs on the album that became popular (especially with the locals) was a song named “Summer Highland Falls”. However, nowhere in the song does he mention Summer or Highland Falls. He used to say, if it was ok for Bob Dylan in “Rainy Day Woman” then he felt he could do the same thing.
I figured if it was good enough for those two, why not do it as well. Plus, it was the perfect metaphor for my song. Plus, since Billy Joel, never came up with the idea of “Winter Highland Falls” as a sequel, I decided I would grab it before he changed his mind.
However, “Winter Highland Falls” is written about an entirely different subject matter than what Billy Joel writes about in his song. In mine, I wanted to discuss the decay of small towns across America and the consequent migration of young people out of them.
I always like to reference other artists and their songs in mine, as an homage to my musical heroes. In this song it’s “We got to get out of this place” by the Animals.
From a musical and song structure perspective, the song is inspired more from Bruce Springsteen's sound than Billy Joel's. Apparently. Bruce and I were both in love with the same girl (Wendy from Peter Pan). He swept her up and took her out of town in “Born to Run”. I do the same in “Winter Highland Falls” where I ask her to "take me by the hand, head out in the night, and find your Neverland”.
One of the musical devices I’ve noticed that Bruce Springsteen uses a lot, is to change the song’s key when the band heads into a saxophone solo. I used this same technique during the instrumental break of WHF. The idea was to give the image of riding on a motorcycle through the winding back-roads out of town, in search of “Neverland". And although we did use Tenor and Bari saxophone throughout this instrumental passage, I purposely moved away from the Clarence Clemons type of sax and more towards what you might hear on a Mink Deville album.
I also wanted a big Layla type instrumental outro to close the song and we decided on using sax and violin together as the lead instruments for it, and we absolutely loved the results.
I played all the guitars on this song. The other musicians included: Stephen Haaker on Drums; Rob Hall on Bass; Fabian Chavez on Sax; Bonnie Brooksbank on Violin; and Ethan Sherman on Mandolin. Harrison and Phoebe Crenshaw along with Diana Ortiz were on backing vocals.
Brett Grossman and Stephen Haaker engineered and produced this song. It was recorded the song at Perfect Sound Studio's in Frogtown CA and Cosmic Voyager Studio Los Angeles. It was Mastered at the Lodge in NYC by Emily Lazar.