A “notice of demolition” sits on the front of the house at 17 Soundview Drive. Such signs are common in Westport. But this home is special.
For one thing, every Westporter knows it. We pass it whenever we walk or drive on the beach exit road.
For another, it has an amazing musical history. Two years ago — when the house was up for sale — I recounted the story, as if its walls could talk.
Ginger Baker sent a drum set to the house. Peter Frampton lounged on the front deck. Carly Simon wanted to buy it.
Those are just a few of the musical memories associated with 17 Soundview Drive. It’s one of the most handsome homes lining the Compo exit road, drawing admiring glances from walkers and sunbathers for its beachside gracefulness.
If only they knew the musical history hidden throughout the property.
It was built — like the rest of the neighborhood — as a summer house in 1918. One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s students designed it, ensuring harmony with the beach environment.
Francis Bosco — current owner Gail Cunningham Coen’s grandfather — bought it in 1928. A Sicilian immigrant and lover of opera, he tuned in every Saturday to NBC Radio’s live Met broadcasts. For years the voices of Enrico Caruso, Maria Callas, Robert Merrill and others soared from the living room, under the awnings and onto the beach, thrilling neighbors and passersby.
In 1982 Gail and her husband Terry Coen bought the house. She’s a musician and music teacher; he’s a songwriter and music promoter. Over the past 32 years they’ve lavished love on it. It was one of the 1st Compo homes to be raised, to protect against storms. The Coens added a secluded rooftop deck, and flower and vegetable gardens.
But the professionally designed, fully soundproofed music studio is what really rocks.
It — and the chance to hang out privately, yet in the middle of all the beach action — has made 17 Soundview a home away from home for 3 decades of musical royalty.
Ginger Baker spent many evenings talking about the birth of British rock, touring with Eric Clapton, and his childhood in England during World War II. He also recited some very bawdy limericks. In return, he gave Ludwig drums to Soundview Studios.
Peter Frampton brought his young family. They loved the warm summer breeze, and being able to sit anonymously just a few feet from the hubbub of a beach afternoon.
One summer day, Carly Simon said she was thinking of buying a beach house. #17 was her favorite, because it reminded her so much of Martha’s Vineyard.
Meat Loaf played Sunday morning softball at Compo. After, he headed to the Coens’. One day, he played his next single on the roof deck. No one on the beach could see he was there — but they heard him. At the end, everyone applauded.
The Remains reunited for the 1st time in decades in the studio. (Full disclosure: I was there. It was one of the most magical moments of my life.)
Eric von Schmidt loved to sing by the fireplace, and joined jam sessions in the studio. One day, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott rambled over with him.
Other regulars included Jimi Hendrix’s bass player Noel Redding; Corky Laing and Leslie West of Mountain; former Buddy Miles Express front man Charlie Karp; Eric Schenkman of the Spin Doctors, and guitarist/producer/songwriter Danny Kortchmar.
Some of those musicians — and plenty other great ones, though less known — were guests at the Coens’ annual July 4th fireworks parties. The food and drinks were fantastic, capped off by watching the passing parade on Soundview.
But the real action happened when the fireworks ended. Everyone piled into the studio, and jammed till the sun came up.
From Caruso to the Spin Doctors, 17 Soundview Drive has seen it all. If only those walls could talk (or sing).
(The new owners will replace the 98-year-old house with a handsome new one. They’re making sure it fits in well with the streetscape. We’ll continue to admire 17 Soundview Drive. We’ll just sing a different song.)