Here are some of the most memorable piano songs and riffs from the New Wave 80’s:
New Years Day – U2 The old piano gets an unlikely boost from a guitar dominated band with this cut from U2’s War album. U2 give a simple piano – bass – drums riff the power that they give they’re usual guitar – bass – drums lineup. The Edge plays this riff on a Yamaha CP-80 which has an unusual, distinctive piano sound that you hear in other 80’s cuts from Peter Gabriel and Hall and Oates. The shorter stings of the CP-80 give a little more of a guitar like tone, only bigger. U2 also used the piano the great effect on another single The Sweetest Thing.
Up On the Catwalk & Alive and Kicking – Simple Minds Michael MacNeil from Simple minds was also a CP-80 user and it is the signature keyboard sound on Simple Minds most successful albums like Sparkle in the Rain and the massive Once Upon a Time. These 2 cuts showcase the piano starting with the octave lead part that kicks off the stadium rock of Upon the Catwalk. Alive and Kicking has a whole breakdown that features nothing but piano, unheard of in a number one hit.
Just Like Heaven – The Cure This song only has piano during the solo section but what a great, memorable part it is. The Cure was known for being an emotional band and the piano solo in this song just makes you want to get out your eyeliner and pictures of and ex-girlfriend and sit and weep in front on the mirror ’til your mascara runs.
Rush – Big Audio Dynamite This song is from the 90’s but BAD was built from the Clash who were from the 80’s (and 70’s for that matter) so BAD gets in. The reason this song gets included is because there is an entire piano breakdown in the 2nd verse. Pianos don’t get many of those.
Rock the Casbah Since we’re talking about the Clash I’d be loathe to forget about this huge hit for them. Listen closely to how the piano is what’s driving the song most of the time and making it rock, and the guitars are adding the flavor. Usually it’s the other way around.
Be Near Me – ABC This hit from ABC has a great piano riff that drives the chorus, in fact it almost is the entire chorus hook, that’s how catchy it is.
Head Over Heels – Tears for Fears There’s an epic piano riff that opens this song that was used for a very strange dance number in the movie Donnie Darko. Kinda similar, and just as catchy as the Be Near Me riff.
No One Ever is to Blame – Howard Jones Another CP-80 user Howard Jones was a pioneer of doing a one-man show using only a keyboard setup. People told him he was crazy but he made it work surrounded by a mountain of keyboards and his venerable CP-80.