Songs of my Childhood: The Inimitable, the One & Only Grasshoppers 草蜢

Posted on January 24, 2012

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“Grasshoppers” never had any significance to me as awesome minty drinks, nor as freaky knobbly insects.

To me, Grasshoppers could only refer to 草蜢 (cao meng), the Hong Kong Cantopop group which was my childhood crush. When I say crush, I mean obsession. When I say obsession, I mean like crazy nuts freaking woo-woo BUY EVERYTHING WITH THEIR FACES ON IT mania!!! I say this with slight defensiveness. Even back then in their heyday, it was actually pretty embarrassing to be a 草蜢 fan.

Biggest nipple covers you ever saw

Just chillin', really

But I always proclaimed my love loud and proud, especially at KTV sessions. (Also another reason why I’ve always had to qualify my deep, undying love for 草蜢 with “Yes, I know shut up I don’t give a shit” was because my favorite Grasshopper was the long-haired one. This one.)

I'm sure you guessed it immediately.

I kinda forgot about them over the years, but lately, I’ve been thinking and grooving to them a lot again. Being back in the ole homeland has probably awakened my nascent ah huay tendencies. Sorry for the local jargon. Just think “skanky”/ “trampy”/ “trailer-trashy”, or someone your mama’s age with too much makeup, inappropriate cleav, brassy, bad perm, tattooed eyebrows and the works. Basically, my current look.

Anyhow, as a pudgy squinty bespectacled 13 year old with a Friar Tuck hairdo I thought they were the sexiest things alive. They were queener than the queenest queen. They were fabulouser than the fabbest fab. They were gayer than the gayest gay. They wielded their quirky sexual energy like a sequinned disco-balled trophy. Of course, their music videos always had sweetie-pie girlsszzzzz…snorezzz and tended to be safely mainstream, but many of their live performances were Mardi-Gras-spectacular. Arrive at the Golden Globes in an ovum? Piss off, Gaga.

More wings than a maxi-pad, as the saying goes.

Hot like faii-yahh

Having said all that, my fav 草蜢 album is 1997’s Ba-ba-ba, which was overall quieter and more restrained than their previous ones, a little like the boys were growing up a bit. That may have come with the marriage of the first ‘hopper, Edmond  So, to teenybopper singer Winnie Lau, about whom I know nothing. The boys made a song and mv about it, which was incredibly sweet and showed their effortless (very well-choreographed) camaraderie. (Calvin got married 3 years later; both guys have 2 kids each. Remus is still single, woot woot.)

 

 

Let’s back up a bit: 草蜢 is Calvin Choy 蔡一智 (xoxoxo), Remus Choy  蔡一傑 and neighbour Edmond So 蘇志威., who started jiving and grinding in their tiny, working-class neighbourhood in Hong Kong. The group called themselves Grasshoppers for their jumpy, energetic dance moves and also because apparently it was their fav cocktail. They were discovered through a talent show by the late and great Anita Mui, who was one of the judges. Anita Mui was the diva responsible for altering the face of Cantopop with really sexed-up dancing, insane costumes and mega bordering-on-ridiculous stage sets. The boys acted as her backup dancers until they started getting attention and tons of fan-mail in their own right, which was when they decided to launch their own career. Still, you can see all Anita’s diva-esque madness in 草蜢’s live performances. They were emblems of the Big Show era in Hong Kong, which also featured luminaries like the sadly departed Leslie Cheung 張國榮 and Roman Tam aka Lo Man 羅文.

Indeed, my fascination with 草蜢 then and now is with their public appearances and performances. In recent years, my darling 草蜢 has appeared to be kind of a joke, confined to performing at casinos in Genting, cruise ships and the like. Apparently not, though, they have also been to Japan and Toronto (as part of some Asian artises blahblah showcase, but who knows). In any case, their cray-cray exuberance has not dimmed. The last time I saw them was in 2006, where they blew me away with an incredibly hot performance of 半點心 (Half a Heart). This vid isn’t it, but I’m putting it here cos I’ve never seen such huge blazers and gloriously cheesy dance moves. (Btw, Calvin and Remus’ mom was their first dance teacher.) LOVE.

 

 

This is the same song, probably 8-10 years later. The beat has slowed down noticeably, and the song has taken on a less dancey and more sexed-up vibe. It also features the most unashamed hip-swaying I’ve ever seen. And I’m pretty sure all three of them are wearing corsets here. (Dancing-wise, this is definitely more Anita Mui-influenced.) ALSO LOVE.

 

 

And here’s another live performance, one of my fav, this one of the power ballad 情歌 (Love Song). Remus is resplendent in a garbage-bag-inspired ballgown.

 

 

Let’s face it, the Grasshoppers don’t exactly make groundbreaking music. They’ve been listed as “rock” (ummm…no) but they really are pop and in many cases bubblegum pop. What they are outstanding for, to me, is their dying breed of showmanship which defined the concept of the Hong Kong concert and entertained audiences like ringmasters in a circus. Their attention to detail is amazing – for their 2008 Forever Grasshopper Concert Live in Malaysia, the boys went to Africa to get their costumes and props. Here’s a highly amusing quote from Calvin:

It was a very interesting experience for us. The people there didn’t want any cash. The only currency they were interested in was livestock so we had to give them cows, horses, pigs and chickens in exchange for the things we required.

In the end, I loved them as a kid because of their campy, catchy pop, because they remind me of my chubby silly youth in Singapore, because they’re cute and aesthetically pleasing, because their stuff is so fun to belt out at KTV. I love them now because they were the first music group to wear their awesomeness on their sleeves, because they are endlessly inventive and unabashedly entertaining, and because they have never given a shit about selling their brand as shamelessly and fabulously as possible. Rock on, brothers.

You know the show goes on: Promoting the 25th anniversary concert in Hong Kong, July 2010

Here’s an oldie goodie. You know you wanna groove.