Struggling to satisfactorily record this song back in 1985, Petty apparently hurt his hand, punching a wall.
The song’s narrator calls himself a rebel, born in Dixie.
By the dictionary, a rebel is a person who stands up for what they believe in, even if most others aren’t on the same page. Politically, a rebel could be a revolutionary or even a terrorist.
It is a debate whether citizens should have the right to rebel against their governments. Constitutions may entrench this, with freedoms of expression, speech and assembly (gathering, meeting). This typically means resistance using legal and conventional means. But violence can come from rebels.
And Petty is using the American Revolutionary War of the 18th century as a metaphor. This was the armed battles between Great Britain and the American colonies. These colonists – the rebels – resented British imposition of taxes.
More from Petty: American Girl