The group - Steve Manning (guitar and vocals); Keith Reay (guitar and vocals); Mark Anderson (bass and vocals) and John Hedgecock (drums) - formed in 1976. All four members were pupils at a boarding school on the Isle of Wight. They would lie about their ages to secure gigs at local pubs and clubs, and then sneak out of school to play them. Musically they aligned themselves strongly to the then-current new wave boom, but with obvious melodic influences from the guitar groups of the 1960s and later. Manning, Reay and Anderson all contributed original material.
Henry Essence released their one, double A-sided single in 1979 - 14-year-old Lover (written by Manning), backed by Margarita (Reay). Only 1,000 copies were pressed; they are now regarded as 'holy grail' items among collectors. Fourteen-year-old Lover has been acclaimed as a classic, deadpan pop/punk anthem, although since the song's rediscovery the group has been at pains to emphasise that they wrote and recorded it when they themselves were no older than 15. Margarita is a more sophisticated offering, showcasing the precocious writing and playing skills of Reay, but this too is recorded in the low-fi manner beloved of followers.
The four members of Henry Essence expected and intended to devote themselves full-time to the band once their school careers came to a close. However, Manning and Reay were involved in a bike collision that resulted in Manning being confined to hospital for many months. Henry Essence went their separate ways, taking up disparate careers across the south of England and abroad. By the mid-1990s, however, the group's apparently-forgotten single was being heavily bootlegged in Britain, Germany and Italy - and then the Detour Records label acquired rights to it and gave it official re-release. There was a surge of interest in the group across the internet.
Meanwhile Manning, Reay, Anderson and Hedgecock, who had remained friends and had never stopped writing together, reunited towards the end of the decade to record two tracks: Working Man (Manning/Anderson), and Ice and Ash (Anderson). Their recordings were intended for private consumption but have surfaced on the internet, along with original demo recordings from the group's early days. These too have been seized upon by followers.
In early 2009 they made their previously unreleased material available for download as a historical compilation of their professional recordings, Eat Bananas For Breakfast. Check out the details in the MP3 Downloads area.
In March 2011 they installed themselves in Momentum Recording Studios to work on producing four new recordings of songs written in the 1970s and 1990s. Driving Man (Manning) was a staple fixture in their live sets, Some Kind Of Truth (Anderson) an unrecorded track from the late 1970s, Valentine Park (Anderson/Reay) and Two Hearts (Anderson/Manning) both written in the 1990s. The tracks feature Steve's son, Josiah Manning, on drums and keyboards. John was unable to make the session due to illness.