The Ambitious Vegetables

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The Ambitious Vegetables
Howard 003.jpg
Background information
Also known as The Veges
Origin Rongotai College
Years active 1978-1980
Associated acts The Mockers, The Red, Condemned Sector, Skapa
Past members Gordon Costello (guitar), Gary Curtis (bass), Andrew Fagan (vocals), Peter Henderson (guitar), Charlie Mannell (drums)


Forming at Rongotai College in 1978, The Ambitious Vegetables played their first paid gig to a lunchtime audience at Wellington Girls college. Amongst the first wave of Wellington bands to be inspired by the new punk sound the Veges brought an energetic teenage vitality to the emerging local scene. "We were all in Rongotai College together when we heard that Fagan was forming a band. Gary was a heavy metaller but knew the chords to Pretty Vacant so he was in and I was mates with Gary and knew the drums so I was in." (Chas Mannell)

Describing themselves as an intelligent punk new-wave band "who want to shock people a bit" the Veges play their music for the people who really want to get and rage on the dance floor: We're not playing for the laidback people in the far corner" says lead guitarist Peter Henderson. People say we're too fast to dance to, but people get up there so it can't be too bad. Wanda Lust 1980

Named by band member Gordon Costello the Veges moniker was intended to cause offence – “It was supposed to be in bad taste. Vegetables as in people in wheelchairs and brain dead, having ambitions”. (Chas Mannell)

Peter Henderson joined the band a little later on lead guitar. A few years older and having already played and recorded with Wellington rock band the Wanders, Henderson brought a tighter, heavier sound to the Veges and his contacts with other bands and venues helped the band to get support slots with notable out of town acts.

The band hung out and played regularly at the Last Resort and Rock Theatre scoring a minor coup at the latter after vocalist Andrew Fagan convinced Chris Knox to let them play between The Terrorways and Toy Love. This in part led to the Veges playing at the Cuba Mall Sunday gigs in the summer of 1979. As the Last Resort became harder to play at due to the increasingly volatile crowd, the Veges along with class-mate/ manager Howard Levarko and the Wallsockets, began booking shows at Thistle Hall in upper Cuba Street.

In 1979 the Veges headed in to Broadcasting House where they recorded 4 songs in one Sunday morning. Vocalist Andrew Fagan left the band to study at Victoria University and later went on to form the highly successful new wave band The Mockers in 1980. The original line-up for this later band featured three members of the AVs: Chas Mannell, Gordon Costello and Gary Curtis.

Post-Fagan, the Veges continued playing into 1980 with Gordon Costello and Gary Curtis writing songs. The track “Who Needs It” later had a video shot without for it at Miramar’s Crescendo Studios and features Gordon Costello on vocals instead of Andrew.

The band made a couple of forays out of Wellington including one attempt to play at a Battle of the Bands in Auckland that was hampered by a van break down in Waiouru and leading to what Charles described as their worst ever performance to a hostile audience of Auckland "art-punks" followed by their best ever gig the next night when they were allowed a guest slot at the contest after missing the heats.

The Ambitious Vegetables lyrics feature a youthful take on Wellington during the Muldoon era that is sometimes at odds with other bands prominent in the New Zealand punk scene at the time. Songs like 'Strathmore Slums Shuffle' bemoan people living on a government benefit at the same time as Auckland band The Scavengers sing about the virtues of the dole in “Supported By The State”. While “Who Needs It” questions why people need drugs as Wellington contemporaries the Wallsockets are singing “I need H&C” (heroin and cocaine) on the 1980 release Four Stars.

After the Veges split in 1980 Gordon Costello and Peter Henderson went on to form The Red, while Chas Mannell joined long-running Wellington band Skapa.


Ambitious Vegetables 1. Art Student 2. Do It To Me 3. Prisoner of Her Majesty 4. 20th Century Sell Out 5. Who Needs It



Ambitious Vegetables - Who Needs It (1979)