In tight T-shirts and clinging pants, the Runaways were punk's sexiest pistols back in 1975. But after two years and three albums, lead singer Cherie Currie found things were Rottener than Johnny and quit the all-woman quintet. The reason, she says, "was an egotistical hatred between the members. They were bitter because I got the most attention."

Now Cherie is making a comeback, at 20, with a new partner accustomed to sharing her spotlight: identical twin Marie, two minutes older. Though Cherie has more showbiz experience (she co-stars with Jodie Foster, Scott Baio and Sally Kellerman in the teen movie Foxes, out next month), Marie proves an equally forceful rocker on their first U.S. album, Messin' with the Boys. After hearing their polished, driving sound, one critic declared, "They sing like the devil [but] look like Charlie's Angels."

"We don't want anyone to compare us to men," explains Cherie of their Spandex costuming on the LP cover, "and we don't care about women's lib. Everybody should be happy to see a few curves in a male-dominated business." As for affirmative action, Cherie adds, "We still like to have men open our car doors and light our cigarettes."

Though the twins wore the same clothes until age 12, and Marie quit school, too, when Cherie joined the Runaways because "we'd never been apart," they now lead separate home lives. Cherie dates Messin' producer Jai Winding and bunks in Encino with her golden retriever, Norton. Marie lives with Toto's guitarist Steve Lukather (and a white German shepherd, Tits) in his Studio City home.

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, the sisters had a chance to warble Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star with Fred MacMurray on My Three Sons at age 2 but froze during filming. They did later enter local talent contests singing with their father, Don (their parents ran a thriving dress shop). Cherie's breakout came at Mulholland Junior High when she learned to lip-synch (and dress) like David Bowie. From then on, I tattles Marie, "She'd get up at 5 o'clock in the morning to paint lightning bolts across her face. Other kids would point to her and call her a freak."

As teens, they were known as "Double Trouble" and placed in different schools. "We smoked in the bathroom like normal kids, but got caught more often," says Cherie. Then their parents divorced. Mrs. Currie remarried and moved to Indonesia with their younger brother, Don, and the twins "had the time of our lives," says Marie, joining Dad in Reseda. Cherie hung out at the Sugar Shack (the Schwab's of L.A. punk), where she was discovered by Runaways founder Joan Jett. As much as Cherie would like to forget those troubled times ("I had to grow up fast"), there's a movie in the works chronicling the Runaways' break-up titled We're All Crazy Now.

After recording one solo LP, Cherie was joined by Marie on a promo tour of Japan, where they got the idea for Messin'. (The first payment went into a car for their father.) Now the twins are rehearsing for their first U.S. tour, beginning in the spring. Marie is "insecure" about the road and expects "painful moments," but not Cherie. "You've got to be open to everything," she figures. Besides, the alternative is finishing high school, and no one can argue when Marie says, "We've learned more out of school than in."