Express & Star

Stairway to heaven? Led up the garden path more like

"Robert Plant must go free," read one placard. It was 1967 and the time of the summer of love, flower power and hippies.

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With Dorette Thompson, who was told she would lose her job for taking part in the demo.

But for the future Black Country rock superstar it meant an appointment with the beak at Wednesbury Magistrates Court.

"Legalise pot," "Happiness is pot-shaped," and "No condemnation without investigation," were among other placards being held up outside court by the 18-year-old West Bromwich lad's supporters.

Only a short time earlier the Rolling Stones had been the subject of a famous and high profile drugs bust, and as Mr Plant faced justice, there was a strong press turnout, perhaps expecting another pop butterfly to be broken on a wheel, to borrow a famous contemporary headline from The Times

Robert Plant outside court.

If you believe information on the internet, Robert was appearing at the Wednesbury court that day on drugs charges.

But now the shocking truth can at last be told. And it will rock Led Zeppelin fans. Because Robert Plant was not appearing on drugs charges at all. In fact, he was up for careless driving after a minor accident in West Bromwich.

Things get even less rock 'n' roll. The stipendiary magistrate, Mr H W Maitland Coley, dismissed the case. So Robert Plant did indeed "go free".

For the assembled media pack it was a case of, stairway to heaven? – led up the garden path, more like.

The Express and Star's coverage had a distinct "we've been had" undertone. A few days previously the Star had been sent a "news release" from a publicity agency alerting it to the court appearance.

This "news release" was sent to the Star in advance of Plant's court appearance at Wednesbury.

"Robert Plant is well known for his sympathy with the 'Flower Generation' and for being an ardent supporter of the campaign to legalise the smoking of cannabis," it read.

"In view of this public appearance, a large number of flower children, and other Robert Plant fans, have decided that this will be an ideal time and place to display their support to Robert's beliefs. As a result of this at least 30 fans have already made banners, in preparation for a demonstration meeting, to take place at approximately 10.30am next Thursday, 10th August, outside the court buildings."

It added: "As this action is likely to create considerable interest, I feel it will be well worth your while to send along a reporter and/or photographer."

So we did. But what the press which took the bait got was somewhat less than advertised.

Our reporter wrote: "Seven strangely dressed teenagers – described by a publicity handout as 'a large number of flower children' – paraded outside the court for about 10 minutes, carrying placards."