The Get Down: An Alternate Soundtrack

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When The Get Down premiered on Netflix last August, it won plaudits for its smart evocation of New York music in the 1970s. But with the second half of its first season debuting on April 7, it’s a good time to revisit its meticulously curated soundtrack—and what aspects of the era it overlooks.

The Get Down is structured around the rise of hip-hop culture in the Bronx, with Ed Koch’s mayoral campaign and the citywide blackout on July 13, 1977 as key events. On the one hand, the music supervision values precise period authenticity—the lack of anything from Saturday Night Fever initially seems like a major omission, but the film was released at the end of 1977 and its soundtrack didn’t dominate the airwaves until 1978. But at other points, that logic goes out the window: The show features Machine’s “There But for the Grace of God Go I,” released in 1979.

At any rate, The Get Down is a historical fantasy. At best, it completely dispenses with reality, whether it’s the kung fu sequences that mark the first episode, or the discotheque shootout that ensnares drug dealer and budding DJ Shaolin Fantastic, a fictional protégé of real-life hip-hop pioneer Grandmaster Flash who is recruiting MCs into the group The Get Down. Besides, why use sappy soft pop tracks like Chicago’s “Hard To Say I’m Sorry” and bland quiet-storm ballads like The Manhattans’ “Kiss and Say Goodbye” when you can cherry-pick the funkiest disco and soul of the early to mid-’70s?

Perhaps the second half of The Get Down will broaden beyond the South Bronx park jams, community rec centers, and grungy neighborhood discos to include settings and music from different parts of New York in the late ’70s. Maybe Marcus “Dizzee” Kipling, the graffiti artist who drops ecstasy and almost experiments with same-sex romance at a gloriously overcooked loft party, will stumble into a Manhattan bathhouse or check out a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show; it’s possible that Ezekial “Zeke” Figuero, the teenage poet whose halted attempts at rapping to his would-be disco-queen girlfriend set the story in motion, will journey down to CBGB and check out a Ramones set; or maybe Marcus’ knuckleheaded kid brother Boo-Boo channels his anger into a KISS Army fan club.

We’ll find out what The Get Down kids get into next when the series returns. For now, enjoy our selection of ’70s pop chestnuts that didn’t make it into the first half of the inaugural season—and hopefully will make the cut for the second.