Sean O'Donnell, leader of Long Island cult band Brown Ploppy, was found dead in his apartment on Feb. 13. At this time the cause of death is still unknown, but it does not appear that drugs or alcohol was involved, and there was no sign of foul play.
From their inception in 1989 to their breakup in the mid-90s, Brown Ploppy attracted a small but fiercely loyal following. Dressed in Santa suits and sporting such names as the Urine Pooper, Shit in a Diaper, Smegma Casserole and Uncle Unwiped Ass (Sean himself always performed as Sammy Davis Jr.), the band's oeuvre consisted of jaw-droppingly tasteless songs about hookers, drugs, toilet paper and child molesters.
And Satan. In "King of Evil," one of Brown Ploppy's signature songs, Sean rhymed "conquistadoré," "amoré" and "whoré" before going into an over-the-top, operatic breakdown: "Satan, Satan/Six-six-six/Fuck you!/Suck my dick!"
It would be easy to dismiss Brown Ploppy as just another novelty act?similar to the cringe-inducing Tenacious D?except that Sean's potty-mouthed antics were more deserving of the Brill Bldg. than Brillo. On "Big Fat Dick"?an ode to a hooker and the B-side of the band's only single (which I coproduced)?the pathos in Sean's voice is so palpable that you might not realize what he's saying ("So ride my cock just like a horse/if you don't start speeding up/I'll have to use force") until he's halfway into the next verse.
On the surface, BP sounded like the mutant child of some horrible three-way between the Ramones, the Dictators and the Mentors. But on closer inspection, Sean's songs incorporated a dizzying array of pop music references, including doo-wop, nursery rhymes, calypso and Irish folk songs. The band used tin and slide whistles to better effect than any band before or since.
Brown Ploppy went through a number of personnel changes over the years. The only constant member besides Sean was sister Beth, aka "The Girl." Beth added a much-needed dose of sex appeal to the band, dressing in short shorts and knee-high boots, and thrashing her Telecaster to within an inch of its life. To see Sean and Beth onstage was to witness one of the great rock 'n' roll sibling pairs, like the Gallaghers, the Davieses or the Youngs.
I was lucky enough to play bass with BP for a number of shows, shortly before their breakup (Sean dubbed me Malcolm Xcrement). The most memorable show was at the New Music Cafe, on Canal St. It was a packed house, with fans from the three bands that night?ska boys, preppies and BP fans?jostling for position. When we hit the stage it was like a bomb exploded in the place; things went nuts. I remember looking up and seeing the balcony shaking as people jumped up and down. A bottle narrowly missed my head. When we finished, some genius cut all the lights and a riot nearly ensued. The bouncers rushed the stage?not to protect us, but to get us. We barely escaped with our lives (Sean actually hid in the bathroom), and I spent most of the rest of the night at the emergency room, while a friend who was not so lucky got stitched up from a bottle to the head. It was one of the greatest nights of my life.
A few Saturdays ago I went to Sean's old apartment, around the corner from Rodeo Bar, to help Beth and her father clean out the rest of his belongings. Our old friend Chris Flip showed up too, and in a few hours we had completed the sad task of loading the van. One of the last items left in the apartment was a bizarre homemade toilet, constructed out of plywood and painted white. Beth pointed to it. "See that? Sean once wanted to use band money to buy a toilet bowl, for shows. We voted him down, of course. So he made one himself."